Agriculture This Week - New tech helping preserve genetics

So last week I wrote about why preserving rare breeds is important.
And now a new technology has emerged to help do just that, preserve rare and important livestock genetics.
The new technology comes via Canadian Animal Genetic Resources (CAGR), a joint initiative of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and the University of Saskatchewan (U of S), to preserve the genetic diversity of Canadian livestock and poultry breeds, and to develop new techniques to conserve germplasm. The three branches of CAGR include Genetic Diversity, Gamete and Embryo Biology, and Cryobiology.
Dr. Carl Lessard, with the University of Saskatchewan explained the program at present is focusing on preserving the sperm of dead or recently castrated farm animals.
“Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Canadian Animal Genetic Resources (CAGR) program has developed a method to salvage sperm cells from epididymis (reproductive organ sitting on the testes) from dead or castrated animals,” said Lessard, lead researcher at CAGR in a release. “If the gonadal tissue is packed properly for shipping, sperm cells can show a good movement up to 48 hours following the castration or the death of the animal, meaning that we can preserve this viable material in our gene bank.”
If packed properly, sperm can be viable for up to 48 hours, which means that producers of heritage breed animals across the country can preserve the genetic diversity of their heritage breed species by couriering scrotums to the CAGR facility in Saskatoon, he explained.
The great news about this technology is that it is working across the range of livestock.
In 2016, CAGR received scrotums from Guernsey and Lynch Lineback bulls, Shropshire and Nubian bucks, a Clydesdale stallion, and a Berkshire pig.
As noted last week Rare Breeds Canada which monitors livestock breeds in this country classifying them first at risk, then vulnerable, endangered and finally critical, has an extensive list. There are some 50 breeds on the critical list of the organization including breeds originating in this country, Lacombe hogs, Outaouais Arcott sheep and the Newfoundland pony.
CAGR preserves the material because loss of genetic diversity is a real threat to future production. Without preservation, characteristics such as the size variety of animals, their ability to thrive in heat or their resistance to disease could be lost, notes the website.
Lessard said for producers the process is rather simple, but added there is a time factor. The material remains viable for only a short time after the death of the animal.
CAGR relies on donations of germplasm and DNA from the livestock and poultry industries, veterinarians, animal breeders and producers, as well as Canadian universities and conservation agencies. If you wish to participate and contribute to the conservation of Canada’s animal genetic resources, please do not hesitate to contact, Yves Plante, (306) 956-7209, or email: yves.plante@agr.gc.ca. Your support is important and appreciated.
Calvin Daniels is Editor at Yorkton This Week.

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