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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Current Efforts in Conservation of Animal Genetic Diversity

Authors
item BLACKBURN, HARVEY
item Bixby, Donald - AMER LIVESTOCK BREEDS CON

Submitted to: Journal of Animal Science
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: June 1, 2006
Publication Date: July 10, 2006
Citation: Blackburn, H.D., Bixby, D.E. 2006. Current efforts in conservation of animal genetic diversity. Journal of Animal Science. 84(Supl 1):422.

Interpretive Summary: Changing consumer demand, threat of disease, and contraction of genetic diversity drive the need to establish vibrant livestock conservation activities. For effective in-situ and ex-situ conservation strategies to function, dialogue and synergistic action between public and private sectors must occur at multiple levels. The National Animal Germplasm Program (NAGP) and American Livestock Breeds Association (ALBC) have interacted in an effort to increase the security of animal genetic resources. In-situ security has improved with ALBC efforts to increase breed population size for 16 breeds (21%) in Critical/Threatened/Watch conditions between 1977 and 2005. These 16 breeds are now in the Recovering category. Since 1999, NAGP has developed an ex-situ collection of germplasm of approximately 250,000 units of semen, embryos and blood samples from 104 major, minor and rare breeds of cattle, sheep, goats and pigs, as well as 11 swine industry lines from four multi-national corporations. A key element in the public-private sector dialogue is the collection, evaluation and utilization of information. Information such as population census data, pedigrees, and number of breeders raising a breed have been collected and utilized to varying degrees. Although the security of US livestock genetic resources has been strengthened, further efforts in developing cryopreserved collections, in-situ conservation and understanding of the dynamics of diversity are needed.

Technical Abstract: Changing consumer demand, threat of disease, and contraction of genetic diversity drive the need to establish vibrant livestock conservation activities. For effective in-situ and ex-situ conservation strategies to function, dialogue and synergistic action between public and private sectors must occur at multiple levels. This type of interaction exists and continues to provide a basis for the operation of the National Animal Germplasm Program (NAGP), the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC), other non-governmental organizations (e.g., breed societies), and livestock breeders. Both NAGP and ALBC have increased the security of genetic diversity for a number of rare, minor and major livestock breeds in the US. In-situ security has improved with ALBC efforts to increase breed population size for 16 breeds (21%) in Critical/Threatened/Watch conditions between 1977 and 2005. These 16 breeds are now in the Recovering category. Since 1999 NAGP has developed an ex-situ collection of germplasm of approximately 250,000 units of semen, embryos and blood samples from 104 major, minor and rare breeds of cattle, sheep, goats and pigs, as well as 11 swine industry lines from 4 multi-national corporations. A key element in the public-private sector dialogue is the collection, evaluation and utilization of information. Information such as population census data, pedigrees, and number of breeders raising a breed have been collected and utilized to varying degrees. This information can serve as a basis for dialogue and actions by the public and private sector. While some information is available for some breeds, the US has not fully engaged its capacity to measure genetic diversity by using molecular information. Such information would greatly add to the ability to assess diversity levels and contribute to decisions concerning conservation strategies. Additionally, phenotypic assessments of many US rare and minor breeds are long out of date and potentially not relevant to today’s populations. This information void could dampen consumer demand for niche products, as well as the effort to explore for unique genes and gene combinations. While conservation activities to date have strengthened genetic security, there are still significant knowledge, information and collection voids.

Last Modified: 9/10/2014
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