Genebank for animal resources CGN

Genebank for animal resources

The Centre for Genetic Resources, the Netherlands (CGN) manages genebank collections of cattle, pig, horse, sheep, goat, dog, duck, goose, rabbit and poultry. It covers both rare breeds and more common commercial breeds. CGN conserves over 300,000 doses of sperm in liquid nitrogen at -196° Celsius, and stores embryos, oocytes and DNA.

Genebank goals:

  • Securing the genetic diversity of rare breeds and more common breeds
  • Using genetic material to support rare breed breeding programmes
  • Providing insurance for calamities such as the loss of breeds due to animal disease
  • Making material available for research and genetic characterisation

Which animal species are included?

CGN mainly focuses on cattle, sheep, pig, goat, horse and poultry. These species are important for the (future) production of milk, meat or eggs, while many breeds also have a significant cultural-historic value. In addition, CGN supports the conservation of breeds of rabbit, duck, goose, pigeon and dog with a cultural-historical value.

Which animal species are selected?

CGN secures the most genetic diversity possible within a breed via the specific selection of donor animals. Where possible, we select unrelated animals based on pedigree or DNA data with a focus on their quality.

The selection of animals for which CGN stores genetic material is often determined in consultation with breed societies. Breed societies or cattle farmers can also make their own proposals and contact CGN.

How much genetic material does CGN store?

CGN stores sufficient genetic material in the genebank per donor animal to enable the recovery of a population.

CGN has developed a calculation program (download) that calculates per species how much sperm and/or how many embryos should be stored per breed and per donor animal.


Reliable cryo-conservation methods and protocols are essential to ensure the quality of the genebank material. CGN develops and improves methods for cryo-conservation of sperm, embryos and oocytes of various animals.

If the material is frozen correctly, it can be conserved in liquid nitrogen for thousands of years
Henri Woelders - CGN cryobiology specialist

Requesting genebank material

Both breed societies and individual breeders can request material from the genebank and contact CGN. We assess requests based on a number of issuance criteria. This includes assessing whether the request supports the conservation of a breed or is necessary to realise breeding goals. Requests are always discussed with the relevant breed society and take into account any conditions posed by the original owner. For research requests, we assess the value of the project and make agreements on the availability of the data once the research has been completed.