Making breeder´s luck happen with reliable breeding values.

Using breeding values speeds up progress, yet, it also increases inbreeding. At a themed evening of YoungKFPS and the ‘Bond van Merriehouder’ (Mare Keeper´s Union, ed.) KFPS Director Ids Hellinga explained the system of breeding values. ‘We should try to get rid of that ‘gut feeling’. Selection on breeding values brings more progress and better results.’

Are predicates old school? How can the breeding values of your mares be used in breeding? These questions commanded a big crowd at Café Overwijk in Tijnje on Thursday the 21st of March. The ‘Bond van Merriehouders’ and YoungKFPS had invited KFPS Director Ids Hellinga to clarify and elaborate the topic of working with breeding values. Hellinga kicked off by saying that many breeders already work with breeding values. ‘It´s quite common practice in the selection of stallions. Stallion choices are increasingly made on the basis of breeding values, as we can deduce from the use.’ He also argued in favour of stepping up the use of breeding values for mares. ‘It means that we can adopt a rational approach to breeding.’ Do use the information that is available, was his advice. ‘The success factor is the manner in which you put all available information into practice.’

Breeding value is hereditary

Breeders want to know the genetic predisposition of a horse. }That is what the horse passes on to the next generation or what needs looking after when considering a match. Breeding values are the best way to determine that genetic disposition. A breeding value is an assessment calculated by a computer after analysis of lineage, results of breeding days and sport tests and which is subsequently narrowed down into a hereditary part. ‘The alternative is to view and assess 100 offspring for all stallions. Then you would have to visit all breeding days and all sport tests, because that is what a breeding value does.’ What breeding values also do is take into account the qualities of both sires and maternal sires. ‘That´s something breeders do as well, the first question asked about a horse is usually: who is the sire?

Predicates and success

And what´s the situation with the success factor when breeding from mares with predicates? Do Model, Crown or Preferent mares have a higher chance of producing Star offspring? For that purpose Hellinga had made an analysis of the dams of the horses that had been awarded the Star predicate in 2018. And selecting on predicates pays off’, is the tentative conclusion, but even more rewarding is selecting on breeding values. ‘The chances of a Star predicate are 74% for mares with a breeding value of over 105.’
But in spite of all breeding values and predictions, luck also plays an important part in a successful breeding programme. Which genes are passed on? Father and mother each pass on half of their genes to offspring. Whether the better half or instead the lesser half is passed on comes down to pure coincidence, good luck or bad luck. ‘A third premium Studbook mare may just as well produce an offspring with a high breeding value’, Hellinga illustrates.

The breeder decides

The role of the Studbook is to collect data, share it and produce it in such a way that breeders can use it. ‘What you do with breeding values is your own personal decision.’ Hellinga explains that kinship will carry more weight. ‘Working with breeding values has the disadvantage that certain bloodlines will be more prominent’, says Hellinga, who substantiated this with the help of the top 100 of mares with the highest breeding values. ‘The stallions Beart 411 and Norbert 444 are frequently-listed sires. And half of the high Norbert daughters are also out of a Beart 411 dam. That means that we have to watch out for inbreeding.’

Kinship incorporated in total index

To avoid narrowing of bloodlines the kinship percentage is also recorded so that it can be used as a selection criterion. ‘This seems to work, low-kinship stallions are pretty popular’, Hellinga pointed out and added that kinship will be merged into one total index together with exterior and sport performances. This will be published – publication of breeding values always takes place one week after the First Viewing – end 2019. ‘With this total index we make sure that progress and injecting new blood go hand in hand.’

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