Genetic potential and heterosis in production herds


The genetic potential of DanBred breeding animals is efficiently transferred to production farms, a study from the Danish Pig Research Centre shows.

Are pig producers seeing the genetic gain attained in the purebred DanBred breeding animals in their production farms? Yes, they are. That is the conclusion of a study carried out by the Danish Pig Research Centre, where the results also show that the crossbred finishers are more disease resistant. Both create value for pig producers.

Read more: The DanBred crossbred finishers – Health and Robustness

Study demonstrates clear impact

The Danish Pig Research Centre are the DanBred R&D engine and continuously develops the DanBred breeding programme. An impact study tested a total of 2,552 DanBred D(LY) finishers and 3,463 of their purebred DanBred Duroc half-sibs at the DanBred boar testing station Bøgildgård. This was done in connection with a large GUDP project on genomic selection (GUDP is a modern grant scheme established under the Danish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries).

“It is important to DanBred that we can document that the genetic gain, which we attain in our purebred populations each year, also manifests itself in our customers’ production herds,” says Helle Palmø, Chief Geneticist at DanBred P/S. “The impact study clearly demonstrates the high potential and level in DanBred D(LY) finishers and confirms that the genetic gain attained in DanBred’s purebred populations is not only transferred to their crossbred offspring but is also further magnified by the benefits of heterosis.”


Breeding progress in production herds

This impact study is important to ensure that the genetic gain attained in a breeding programme also manifests itself in the production herds. Environmental factors such as health status, management, and feed quality may differ between breeding herd and production herd. Furthermore, the pigs in the breeding herds are purebred, whereas the pigs in the production herds are crossbreds.

“It is not given that the genetic gain attained in the purebred populations will disseminate fully in production herds. By testing purebred and crossbreds in the same environment, in this case at the Bøgildgård boar testing station, we can be sure that the observed differences are due to genetic factors and not the surrounding environment,” explains Helle Palmø.


Daily gain, feed conversion, and lean meat percentage better than expected

The results document that DanBred D(LY) boars perform as well as their half-sibs purebred Duroc at the time of the test. Especially when it comes to daily gain and thickness of back fat (an indirect measure of lean meat percentage).

“That is very convincing, because although half of their genes come from purebred DanBred Landrace and Yorkshire, these purebreds do not have finisher traits as impressive as those seen in DanBred Duroc. Adjusted for the difference in performance for finisher traits between the Duroc and the purebred DanBred Landrace and DanBred Yorkshire, the project results document that the three-way crossbred finishers actually exceed expectations. When DanBred crossbred finishers perform better than the average of their parents – i.e. the average genetic potential of the Duroc sires and the DanBred Hybrid (LY) dams – and even in the same environment, it is most likely due to heterosis,” says Helle Palmø.

The impact of the Duroc sires’ breeding values for daily gain, feed conversion and lean meat percentage in the crossbreds is 140, 188 and 82 percent, respectively, meaning that an impact is seen for all the traits. There is also a favourable heterosis for daily gain and lean mean percentage. Since the project ended, the breeding progress has contributed even further to DanBred Duroc’s production level.


Trait DanBred Duroc boars
DanBred D(LY) boars
DanBred Duroc boars
(2019 – BG)
Daily gain (g/day) 1102 1103 1207
Feed conversion ratio (FU/kg) 2.26 2.24 2.08
Thickness of back fat (mm) 7.2 7.6 6.0

Table: Average productivity, adjusted for environmental factors for DanBred Duroc and DanBred D(LY) boars born 2014-15 and in 2019 (Bøgildgård – BG)


Healthy and robust DLY finishers

DanBred’s breeding system, which is based on a three-way D(LY) crossbreeding, transfers all the advantages of heterosis directly to the pig producers. The pig producers get the maximum benefit from the effect on the dam traits in DanBred Hybrid and the production traits in the DanBred DLY finishers.

In the same impact study, the crossbreds had lower treatment frequencies for a number of diseases compared to the DanBred Duroc boars. This obvious advantage does not only benefit the bottom line it also increases animal welfare in the DanBred DLY finishers, and with an increasing number of restrictions on treatment of sick animals it is important to have healthy animals.

The study confirms that the DanBred crossbreds are very robust and healthy with a lower treatment frequency. The most significant observations were recorded for diarrhea, encephalitis, and pulmonary disease treatments. The treatment frequency for the DanBred crossbreds in relation to diarrhea and encephalitis decreased by more than half, and in relation to pulmonary disease, the treatment frequency was approximately 25% lower for the DanBred crossbreds. Furthermore, the treatment frequency for leg disorders and lameness was almost 40% lower for the DanBred crossbreds.



Heterosis is defined by the offspring exceeding the average performance of the purebred parents.
In connection with crossbred, this means that e.g. DanBred D(LY) crossbreds typically perform better than the average performance of the purebreds DanBred Duroc, DanBred Landrace and DanBred Yorkshire.




Download our App!

Most Popular

Get all the latest updates

Join our list and get valuable insights and practical knowledge directly in your mailbox.

cONTACT danbred

We can help you transition to DanBred genetics, technical services, transport and more. Book a time with us, and we will call you when it suits you.

Get easy access to our knowledge!

Join our list and get valuable insights and practical knowledge directly in your mailbox.

Did we prove our point?

Do you think DanBred might be the right choice for you or someone you know? Click below to get in on the progress.


Bred for Business