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Groningen White Headed cattle: more genetic diversity by using gene bank

Gepubliceerd op
30 oktober 2015

The use of bulls from the gene bank in Wageningen can help to lower the loss of genetic variation in Groningen White Headed cattle, is the conclusion after the analysis of SZH and CGN. The kinship between the living cows and the AI bulls is higher than with bulls from the gene bank. So, if the bulls fit in the breeding goal of the farmers, semen from the gene bank can be used to support this endangered Dutch cattle breed.

Cattle population

The current cattle population is about 2600 females. There are a few ancestors having a relative high genetic contribution within the current population which increases the level of inbreeding. The increase in inbreeding in the last generation is about 1%, which indicates a higher risk of losing genetic diversity and inbreeding related problems. To keep a healthy population it is important to reduce the rate of inbreeding and use bulls which are less related to the cows. The bulls in the gene bank are less related to the living cows then the currently available bulls meaning that the gene bank can help to lower the kinship and, therewith, the increase in inbreeding.

Breeding strategies

CGN (Centre for Genetic Resources, the Netherlands) and SZH (Dutch Foundation for Rare Domestic Animal Breeds) advises breed societies to develop sustainable breeding strategies and to minimize inbreeding levels for endangered species. Besides that CGN takes care for expansion, documentation and distribution of gene bank material, mostly semen. Conservation of genetic diversity between and within farm animal breeds is an insurance for the future. CGN supports and encourages both in situ (live) and ex situ (frozen) conservation to maintain genetic diversity in farm animal species. CGN closely collaborates with breed societies, the breeding industry and the SZH. Back-up genetic variation in the gene bank is essential, because populations change over time.