With the help of metabolomic selection, DanBred pigs will further improve the already low feed consumption in the future. In addition to feed efficiency, taste and tenderness are also in focus when the pig of the future is composed.
A blood sample from a pig has a lot to say when it comes to the development of future generations. This is proven by a completely new way of breeding, which ensures continued low feed consumption and good meat quality in DanBred pigs. The new way is called metabolomic selection, and we are at the forefront of getting the new technique ready for use in practice.
When we begin to use this new technique, it will mean noticeable improvements in pig production – especially for traits that are currently difficult to measure, such as feed efficiency. For example, over five years the feed consumption in finisher pigs can be reduced by 0.05 instead of 0.04 kg feed per kilo of growth with this new technique. If we take Danish pig production as an example, this extra reduction means a saving in feed of 6.5 million kg per year.
Serves the farmer’s interests
The goal of our balanced breeding work is always to ensure the highest economic gain for the farmers. Metabolomic selection is a more precise way of selecting the best pigs for future generations, and you will see this progress directly in the productivity in your herds. In practice, the selection is done by measuring which molecules are in the pig’s blood, and thereby, digging deeper into the breeding traits that shape the DanBred pig.
“We started the project Metabolomic Selection in 2020. Today, we have reached the point where we know how to use the extra information from the pig’s blood. The next step is to demonstrate that we are actually better at identifying pigs with, for example, low feed consumption,” says Tage Ostersen, Head of Department at Breeding & Genetics at the Danish Agriculture & Food Council.
Excellent meat quality in high demand
The quality of pork produced by finisher pigs with DanBred genetics is already high, and all around the world, there is an increasing interest in high meat quality. Therefore, the trait intramuscular fat is included in the project, since it is an important trait when talking about taste and juiciness.
Every week, data is collected on carcasses, where pork loins are analysed for meat quality parameters. The parameters include ultimate pH, colour, intramuscular fat and myofibrillary fragmentation index, the latter being an indicator of the protein breakdown in the meat and an expression of the tenderness of the meat.
“We send tests of the meat to Aarhus University [in Denmark], which then sends us the answer on how the pig performs within the different parameters,” explains Tage Ostersen.
Co-operation with very different industry
Metabolomic selection is not only a method that can be used within pig breeding. Therefore, DanBred has teamed up with Nordic Seed, among others. Barley has DNA similar to that of pigs. So, it was obvious to collaborate on developing the necessary tools.
“Metabolomic selection is the method for digging deeper in relation to using the breeding candidate’s overall metabolic ‘picture’ in the bloodstream. By knowing this, we can better select the right breeding animals for the next generation. They are actually further in relation to metabolomic selection when it comes to barley, and therefore, it is a huge advantage that we can collaborate, even though these are two different kinds of food,” says Tage Ostersen.
The idea behind Metabolomic Selection is to use data to select and breed the animals that utilise the feed most efficiently and provide the best meat quality.
The project is a collaboration between DanBred, Danish Agriculture & Food Council – Sector for Pig, Nordic Seed, and Aarhus University. The work is supported with almost DKK 8.5 million (EUR 1.1 million) from GUDP under the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries of Denmark.