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Swine Germplasm Added to National Collection

By David Elstein
May 1, 2002

The National Animal Germplasm Program (NAGP) has officially added swine to its collection, a decision that could lead to better-quality animals and ultimately to improved pork products for consumers.

In 1990, Congress mandated NAGP to be part of the Agricultural Research Service’s National Genetics Resources Program. Located at the ARS National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation in Fort Collins, Colo., NAGP received its first germplasm entry-- 40 chicken lines--in 2000.

Industry consolidation has led to concerns about less genetic diversity in swine. By collecting swine germplasm, NAGP will help provide breeders with the genetic tools necessary to develop animals with disease resistance and other important traits, according to NAGP coordinator Harvey Blackburn. Researchers are also starting a national breed survey and have developed software to sample breeds. They are actively sampling two breeds a year and hope to repeat this process every 10 years.

Research is also being conducted to improve germplasm cryopreservation, a process in which semen is preserved at extremely low temperatures. Semen that has undergone current techniques for cryopreservation results in very low conception rates and small litter size, compared to industry norms.

NAGP helps coordinate research related to germplasm preservation, including enhancement of long-term germplasm storage, investigation of the effects of long-term storage on sperm and embryo viability and improved understanding of why certain semen will not successfully freeze. Within NAGP, there are also committees studying proper storage of germplasm for beef and dairy cattle, small ruminants and aquacultured species.

More information about the program is available at:

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific research agency.

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