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Denmark Launch DKK 64 Million Breeding Project

07 July 2009

DENMARK - A groundbreaking cattle research project to the tune of DKK 64 million has recently been launched at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences at Aarhus University.


Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, Eva Kjer Hansen talking to the dean, Just Jensen.
Photo: Janne Hansen

A new research project that can save cattle breeders up to one billion Danish kroner in 10 years has been launched at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, Aarhus University, with the participation of the Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, Eva Kjer Hansen.

Taking the trip to Jutland to mark the launch of a new research project at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences is not an everyday happening for the Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries. But then it is not every day that 64 million Danish kroner are granted to a single project.

The project that the Minister, Eva Kjer Hansen, helped to launch on 20 April 2009 is the hitherto largest single research venture within Nordic cattle research and is about the development of genomic selection. The breeding method the project focuses on has already been proclaimed as the largest breakthrough in cattle breeding since artificial insemination was introduced in the 1930s and new breeding programmes in the 1970s. The use of this method is believed to advance genetic improvement in cattle by at least 50 per cent more than the current level. There will also be large savings for the sector in terms of costs and time, as progeny testing can be phased out – corresponding to a total profit of one billion Danish kroner over the next 10 years.

Better, cheaper, faster

Financial gain is not the only advantage to farming of genomic selection. Animals also benefit from the new method, as it is able to incorporate health and fertility in the breeding programme to a far greater extent. The quest for high efficiency and productivity in animal husbandry will therefore be far less demanding of the animals.

The breeding of cattle has so far been based on assessments of the progeny, which takes 5-6 years. As a result of the pioneering research carried out at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, this step can now be omitted, or at least kept at a minimum. The technique involves making DNA tests of the animals and using gene markers to predict the breeding value of the animals. With the new method the breeding value of the animals can be estimated already at birth.

The new project plans to further develop genomic selection – for example by including new traits and more information. The five-year project, which is called “Genomic selection – from function to efficient application in cattle breeding” is supported by the cattle industry and by funds from the Innovation Law and is a collaboration between the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, Viking Genetics, and the Danish Cattle Federation.

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