A test to include unregistered rare Dutch cattle in the herd book

Published on
February 5, 2019

Local Dutch cattle breeds have small population sizes and the number of breeding animals registered in herd books is limited. In December 2018 the Centre for Genetic Resources the Netherlands (CGN) and the Dutch Rare Breed Survival Trust (SZH) introduced a DNA-test to include rare Dutch dual-purpose cattle in the main section of a herd book, in case they have desired phenotypic traits but incomplete or missing pedigree data. Herd book registration is important for rare breed populations to enlarge their population, while at the same time preserving the breed and increasing the basis for sustainable breeding.

Dual purpose breeds

The original Dutch cattle breeds are dual-purpose breeds, suitable for both dairy and beef production. These breeds thrive in more extensive farms and in nature reserve grazing. Besides, they are part of our living cultural heritage. The Dutch dual-purpose cattle breeds are: Dutch Friesian (both black and white and red and white), Groningen White-Headed, Dutch Belted, Deep Red Cattle and Meuse-Rhine-IJssel (MRIJ). Besides the MRIJ, all breeds are threatened as the number of adult females per breed is less than 6,000.

Reference populations

Every breeding organisation is aware of unregistered animals that are expected to be purebred, but lack pedigree information. So far those purebreds couldn’t be used in a breeding programme. With the DNA-test it is possible to compare the DNA of these suspected purebreds with reference populations of the Dutch dual-purpose cattle breeds. If they have desired phenotypic traits according to the breeding organisation and there is sufficient resemblance between their DNA and the DNA of animals in the reference population of the same breed, the suspected purebreds can be assigned to that particular breed. To construct the reference populations DNA of purebred animals with known pedigree information was used.

Herd book registration

After registration in a herd book, these animals are immediately identified as belonging to a rare Dutch cattle breed through the national Identification & Registration database combined with the database maintained by the Dutch Rare Breed Survival Trust (SZH) in which animals are identified as a rare breed; enlarging their populations, preserving these breeds and increasing the basis for sustainable breeding.