Theory and practice

Marijke Akkerman © DigiShots

Some ten years ago ‘crossbreeding’ was considered a ‘dirty’ word. Nowadays it’s more and more subject of discussion for breeders of Friesian horses, at meetings as well as on Social Media. The question is and remains as to what the implications of crossbreeding are for our Friesian horse.
This issue was addressed at the Spring meetings too, with a view to the future of the breeding policy. The opinion of breeders, also based on the survey about low-kinship mares, is clear. Health of the Friesian horse features in place one of the breeding goal. We want healthy horses, fertile mares and stallions and horses that can grow old.
In cooperation with experts from the Wageningen University, the Breeding Council is working hard to develop plans, taking all the suggested ideas and advice into account. Both for the short-term, but also and more importantly, what to do for the long-term? For the short-term we are looking for more outcrossing and variation in bloodlines, for example by stimulating breeding with low-kinship horses. Within as well as outside our borders we are going to look for interesting bloodlines, but also in the various registers of the Friesian Horse Studbook. We will develop a breeding policy for stallions as well as for mares.

For the long-term the so-called twin-track strategy will we worked out in more detail, with a research plan drawn up by the team of Animal Breeding and Genomics Group Wageningen University & Research. In plan A the focus lies on looking for solutions within the population. Plan B involves crossing with other blood and serves as a back-up system. At the last meeting of the Breeding Council researcher Dr Ir. Bart Ducro spoke encouraging words. He reassured us that a lot of well-documented information about the Friesian breed is available, which can be used to set up health strategies. Developments in research keep gaining momentum and Ducro explains that ‘the better the search method, the more you will find.’ In short, we have our work cut out for us but the outline of the framework is clear. A fine conclusion of the stimulating breeding evening was the following remark made by Bart Ducro: ‘In theory there are solutions for everything, but in practical terms this is not always so.’ In other words, there will always be problems we have to tackle, but we will work hard to minimise these as much as possible.

Marijke Akkerman

Director KFPS

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