According to Bennie van der Fels, Senior Project Manager Wageningen UR Livestock Research, pig breeding offers good solutions to reducing boar taint at slaughterhouses. Traditional breeding primarily focused on improving animal performance (characteristics such as litter size, growth and meat quality). Using the knowledge acquired from the research programmes, breeding organisations are already capable of substantially reducing boar taint. A concept has already been introduced to the market under the name Nador.
Many animal characteristics are inheritable. Crossing animals with desirable characteristics increases or decreases a property per generation. To this end, animals’ breeding data is stored in indexes. Breeders have access to this genetic information using special software. They can then use this for their own breeding programmes.
Wageningen UR is closely involved in research aimed at improving breeding programmes. It is in this capacity that it studied whether it is possible to reduce the risk of boar taint using modified breeding programmes. Bennie van der Fels: “We studied whether certain characteristics exist in the DNA that indicate the risk of boar taint. This genomic information can be used for selection programmes for boar taint. Boar taint is caused by, among other things, androsterone and skatole. The quantity of these substances differs per pig and is, to an extent, determined by their DNA. This knowledge enables the selection of terminal sires the uncastrated offspring of which will produce 40% less boar taint.
Expand with sows
Van der Fels says it is by no means impossible that if the breeding programmes were to be expanded to include the sow line, the risk of boar taint might be able to be reduced to 60%. This process is now being studied whereby the relationship with other characteristics that are of importance to sow farmers such as litter size and the number of piglets raised per year.
The inclusion of boar taint in current breeding programmes is ultimately determined by the market. As soon as the chain issues a financial stimulus for pig farmers to supply boars with a reduced risk of boar taint, breeding concepts will be implemented in an accelerated manner.