Animal production is an important part of Finland’s agriculture and it produces more than 60 per cent of the total income of the agriculture sector. Farm animals are one of our most valuable natural resources. Thus, animal breeding is a central instrument in improving the competitiveness of agriculture, environmental sustainability and the well-being of animals.

All production animal populations in Finland are of internationally high quality. In global agricultural competition, production animals need to manifest high production potential and resource efficiency but at the same time maintain good health, fertility, easy management and conformation.

Innovations to the food chain

The animal breeding research in the Natural Resources Institute of Finland develops selection methods which make[NC1]  it possible to select healthy animals for breeding that have excellent production qualities and whose environmental load is as small as possible.

With the help of our research, for example, a new innovative breeding value model of fertility traits has improved the reproduction of Nordic dairy cattle, the nutrient load of fish farming is reduced, and the well-being and pelt quality of fur animals is improved.

Breeding value estimation and genetic modelling are very data intensive and are based on efficient computing applications. One of the most computing intensive breeding value estimation models created by Luke is for the milk production traits of Nordic dairy cattle. It utilizes monthly test day record measurements of milk, fat and protein from all 15 million performance recorded Finnish, Swedish and Danish cows.

Luke carries out internationally ground breaking research using genomic information for the estimation of breeding values. State of the art genomic models integrate huge data sets of DNA markers with corresponding records of phenotypes. The final aim is in the development of genomic tools that can predict desired breeding genotypes earlier and more accurately than ever before. Our genomic evaluation innovations are in use in many breeding programs around the world. Genomics has especially revolutionized dairy cattle selection, but now the methods are applied to almost every species of farm animals.

See also