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Pedigrees and Lines??? Genotype information?

Posted: Sat Jun 08, 2013 5:14 am
by klorinth
Good Evening everyone,

I am very new to pigs and do not have any kunekune yet (only Berkshire). There are none in our area and I must bring them in from a great distance, so it takes a great deal of time. But I am planning for Late Fall or next year.

I am experienced with the breeding of dogs, sheep, and poultry. I use a computer program to create and maintain pedigrees for all of our dogs and sheep. My database for the dogs includes over 250 entries. With these I am able to calculate the inbreeding coefficients and do breeding predictions for future planning. We tend to plan 3 breedings into the future at all times. That way we can maintain a goal for our overall breeding program. For the sheep there are specific traits that we are breeding towards and without an accurate pedigree we would never be able to reach our end goal.

We have rare breeds that must be brought in, therefore the gene pool is extremely limited, and because of that when we are bringing in breeding stock it is always with the plan of creating an independent and selfsustaining population. In other words we create our own line(s) that can be maintianed and used for outcrossing. That way we are able to continue to breed and improve our stock without being forced to constantly bring in new outcross stock. Bringing in stock usually means a 2-3000 km drive or flying them in from another continent. Our breeding dogs cost obscene amounts in the end.

When I look at the kunekune and what I would likely do with them I can't help but think of a breeding program that would be similar.

I have spoken with a couple of people about the breeding that they do and I have been reading the information on the different websites for the associations in GB, New Zealand, and the USA. I have not been able to understand how people are doing their breeding. I don't understand how pairings are chosen and how the pedigrees are maintained. Everyone talks about the different Lines that their pigs come from, but it doesn't make sense to me. It sounds like the females are always named after the sows Line, and the males are named after the boars Line. Is that correct? If so that does not fit with how we track the genetics of our animals. How can you have accurate pedigrees this way? What am I missing? I must have something confused. How can you tell if you are linebreeding, outcrossing, or inbreeding?

For some background information: I am medically trained and experienced with basic animal husbandry, my wife is a university researcher and is trained in genetics and the manipulation of animal genotype/phenotype through planned breeding programs. So we have some good understanding of the basics of breeding program developement.

Does anyone use any pedigree programs for their kunekune? I would love to know what people are using. The program I use does not includes pigs at this time so I don't have any genotype information for the kunekune. An understanding of the heritability of different traits would be very helpful. The colour variations in the breed will make it challenging to understand. The Piri Piri seem easier to understand along with size, etc.

If anyone can help me to better understand how they are doing their breeding and record keeping I would really appreciate it. I don't want to rock the boat by doing something different, but right now I might have to because I am confused. :wink:

Thank you all for your help.

Re: Pedigrees and Lines??? Genotype information?

Posted: Sun Jun 09, 2013 10:11 am
by simon
Yes, the sow and boar line names are inherited from the parent.

The BKKPS maintains a pedigree database of all registered kunekunes in the UK (and beyond). Currently there are 8680 registered pigs in the database going back to 1993 when the first UK kunekunes were born. There are countless more that have been birth notified but never registered as pedigree.
These pigs are also linked to the New Zealand database, so each pedigree pig can be traced back up to 10 generations in the UK and more in the NZ database - back to the 1980s when the pedigree register was first established. The Dutch society do the same thing, as I believe do the US.

Each breeder can see the BKKPS database online and view the family tree of each pig stretching right back before breeding. Inbred pigs are not eligible for pedigree registration.

It sounds like you know your stuff about genetics, and I would love to hear more about what you would want from a pedigree database that would help you with breeding.

I don't know if its true, but someone told me that kunekunes were selectively bred by the maoris through a process of "if it is pleasant to have around, it gets to breed - otherwise it ends up in the pot".

A lot of people would perhaps not use the same language as you concerning "end goals", when for many kunekune breeders its the individual animals and the fun of keeping them and breeding healthy, happy pigs that is more important than specific traits 5 generations from now. The breed is already perfect!

Re: Pedigrees and Lines??? Genotype information?

Posted: Tue Jun 11, 2013 3:22 am
by klorinth
Thank you for the excellent reply Simon.

As for what I look for in pedigrees and end goals; there are three basic influences that dictate my thinking.

1) competitive conformation dog breeding. The visual aesthetics side of breeding along with good behaviour. Colour, pattern, piri piri, etc. All the stuff listed in the Standard.
2) competitive dog training. Hunting. The physical abilities required to be what they are meant to be. Grazing pig in this case.
3) agricultural breeding. Focus on production traits like growth rate, feed conversion on grass, fertility, mothering ability, etc.

What you are talking about sounds like the conformation breeding without the other two parts. I don't think that is what the Maori were doing. If you look at the writings on animal husbandry dating back a couple hundred years and read between the lines you will find it is far more complex than just put them together and see what you get. They thought about all different traits, behaviours, and production qualities. We just think we are smarter.

I can't believe everyone is only doing the aesthetic breeding. There has to be more to it than that.

Re: Pedigrees and Lines??? Genotype information?

Posted: Thu Jun 20, 2013 7:59 pm
by The Rushbury Pig
The breed standard contains all three parts you mentioned! Their purpose here is either as a pet (temperament and aesthetics) or as a meat pig (conformation then relates to carcass suitability as per standard).

The Maori s had got it right, intuitively selecting using many characteristics with temperament/eating quality/food conversion being at the top of the list because these pigs had to live with their families and provide them with meat. No need for computers or a breed program though :D

You will find the majority of breeders in this country are not so scientific about their breeding program with the exception that they will avoid inbreeding and aim to breed healthy stock by selecting healthy starting stock. Perhaps being close to the Maori in their approach to breeding.

Individual breeders will have specific personal views about what is aesthetically pleasing wrt their pigs and so naturally their herds may develop some features more than others as they have selectively bred their stock. This is particularly true for breeders that show or breed their KK for meat.

Many breeders are simply people who have a real passion for the breed and love them dearly as pets and so have a small number of litters selling these on as pets or to others who breed in a similar way. Their customers will be looking at the aesthetics and wonderful temperament of the breed and they will not be interested in developing the breed through focussing on breeding in/out specific characteristics. Good health will obviously also be a key factor but they will obviously be less interested in the key characteristics that make a good meat pig.

Many of us have real concerns about some of the unhealthy hereditary problems seen in some KK pigs and so a focus on breeding for good health is an absolute priority and the Society is keen to reduce inbreeding and breeding from pigs that have not been carefully selected for breeding.

I also breed Berkshires and have bred other big breeds. There is a risk in breeding to a specific breed standard and for specific features if it is not one that is carefully thought through. Establishing the standard is always controversial. This is constantly debated in all the breed clubs I have been involved with and one, that will no doubt, rumble on forever!

I also used to breed Guinea Pigs and used a complex database for them that calculated coefficients for inbreeding etc but the only people who were ever interested in this type of information were the odd one or two major breeders who wanted to ensure they could breed specific colours or coats because their customer base dictated that characteristic when buying. Most people buying KK like them because they are cute with a wonderful temperament, selective breeding from that point of view is easy :lol:

I have gone off track I know but this is what came into my head so please excuse the waffle!!

Re: Pedigrees and Lines??? Genotype information?

Posted: Thu Jun 27, 2013 3:48 am
by klorinth
No worries, there is no going off topic on this one.

I am very glad to hear that the society is encouraging members to think about healthy breeding and the longterm impact of their breeding. It is a true shame to see so many different breeds develope so many genetic problems. It is very bad in the dog world for some breeds.

Does the society offer any assistance or guidance to the members with review of the pedigrees or inspection of animals during the selection process?

You mentioned the breeding of animals for meat. I get the impression that this is not the norm, although more people might be leaning in that direction just based on the number of litters they may be producing. Your comment reminded me about some discussion I read from the USA about a boar that was brought over from the UK. They described him as being significantly larger in size than the pigs in the USA. Is this a one off, or might this be related to breeding for competition with the big breeds at shows? It is really easy to breed up in size when you are competing and losing to larger breeds. If people are actively breeding for meat production how are they selecting without risking going beyond the standard?

Re: Pedigrees and Lines??? Genotype information?

Posted: Thu Jun 27, 2013 9:14 pm
by The Rushbury Pig
There is a variation in size within the kunekune population as you might expect in any population. I cannot comment on the boar you mention as I do not know what his vital statistics are! Do you have any for him?

One of our members recently imported into the U.S. so it would be interesting to ask him to make a comparison between the home grown and imported kunekune. There was a gilt amongst them that came from me.

The kunekune in my herd are all quite small and many other people have KK quite a bit larger than mine. I don't think this has resulted from people breeding bigger for showing as here we compete in KK only classes and not against the larger breeds. It may be that individual breeders do choose to breed from larger pigs if they are fattening but there are not many members who 'specialise' in this so I would not expect to see this affecting the average size of KK pigs here.

Many breeders keep kunekune purely to sell as pets but the market for this is obviously limited and the huge interest in micro pigs in the last few years may have drawn interest away from the kunekune. There are people who keep kunekune for meat but mostly they are breeders who select the best stock for breeding, sell some as pets and remaining stock may be sold as fatteners or they may keep them to fatten.

The committee has spent a great deal of time this year behind the scenes debating the best way to maintain a healthy pedigree breed. We have debated long and hard hoping to strike a balance between advising and telling! It has been agreed that we will try to offer support by producing videos and guidance on selection of good pigs for new buyers and good pigs for breeding for new breeders. We believe education is the way forward. Wendy, the chair of the BKKPS, has already posted some videos on you tube. Vidoes of other things like foot trimming, de-tusking etc are also on the way we hope.

Re: Pedigrees and Lines??? Genotype information?

Posted: Sat Jun 29, 2013 2:08 pm
by wendy scu
with regard to size - the breed standard is 24" - 30" high. The kunekune is a small pig, but only relatively small and there is huge variation in the breed size.
The pigs which came from the UK last year were exported by me. I personally don't get too hung up on size as i think if you have space for pigs then a few inches will make no difference. i do get hung up about temperament and good healthy conformation though :)

Boars will continue to grow a lot longer than sows as they fill out so much more. We also see throwbacks ocassionally from the 'Captain Cookers' - the european pigs the CC introduced into NZ. These can be very large pigs indeed

You asked about inspection/selection ; we discussed this at length but concluded it was not d-able for a host of reasons including cost, logistics and age of pigs - for example if a boar has been kept to mature and he is then disapproved for breeding his owner would have incurred a good deal of costs and would have little alternative but to slaughter him

I personally would have favoured a boar approval scheme but could not see a fair and affordable way to do it,

Re: Pedigrees and Lines??? Genotype information?

Posted: Sat Jun 29, 2013 4:48 pm
by klorinth
Thank you both for the very helpful responses.

I'm afraid I don't have any real stats on the boar I mentioned. The discussion was brief and only contained general opinion without actual numbers.

I should have been a little clearer when I said competing with larger breeds. What I have oberved in dogs and sheep is that it is the judges who have the immediate impact becuase of what they are choosing and rewarding. A judge that is looking at meat breeds in the morning (and specializes in meat breeds)then goes to judge wool breeds in the afternoon can have a tendency to select the larger more meaty animals. Over time this can lead the breeders to breed up in size to help get more wins. So even if you never directly compete with the large breeds the judges have spent most of their careers judging the big boys. There have been some very heated debates within our sheep community regarding this because more Rams are appearing that are now at the top of the standard or even beyond it and they are the ones winning in the ring. I just wondered if this may be occuring in the UK as well.

Please excuse my ignorance of the Standard; what is the size range? 24-30" hieght is fairly broad. Is there a length or weight range as well? Just thinking about a 6" difference in height that could equate to a very large difference in weight. The size of the KK is one of the things that makes them so appealing to us. Our sheep are small to medium breeds because they are easier to handle for my wife. She would never let me have mature Berkshire, even if I wanted them. She is accepting of the idea that KK would be up to about 200lbs, but she would not like to see them larger than that. The power and momentum of a boar becomes too dangerous even if he doesn't mean to hurt you.

Videos: That is wonderful to hear. I will look forward to seeing them.
Finding a balance between educating and controling peoples breeding is difficult. Our dog breed club in the originating country has set an inbreeding coefficient requirement that everyone must meet. You must submit an application to breed to the club. A designated member then compares the pedigrees and works out the coefficient. If you meet the criteria you can breed them. There is no visual inspection, as the club is mostly focused on maintaining a diverse and healthy gene pool. Like with the KK the breed almost went extinct and had to be built back up from just a handful of individuals. As a breed they are very healthy and the club wants to keep it that way. The down side is the work that the club must perform.
I personally lean toward the education side of this debate, but with a little "Benevolent Dictator" thrown in as well. I don't trust people to always do what they know and say they should. People are smart but do stupid things.

Wendy, your mentioning of the CC throwbacks is interesting. I tried to do a bit of searching regarding the historical genetic background for the KK and it is still quite vague. Any idea how common that type of throwback is? Are there any other traits that might pop up? I was reading a bit that talked about the KK being predominantly of Asian decent, but they must have some European as well.

Re: Pedigrees and Lines??? Genotype information?

Posted: Sat Jun 29, 2013 5:26 pm
by wendy scu
i understand what you're saying abou the judging/ size/meat/big breeds now but i would say that the kunekune is so far removed (in people's minds) here in the uk from the meat breeds that i don't think the cross over is there. i have judged the kunes and i think the last thing on my mind would have been their size. Stature is important to me - i would always prefer a square 'dumpy' pig but that is only length of leg to body size ratio really. The most important difference between the kunes and the big breeds is the temperament; what ever size your kunekune, even 200lbs, it is never going to compare with the big breeds when handling. I have kept Glos old spots and Berkshires and i also work with larger breeds and there is really no comparison in the handling - nothing to do with the size.

the history i have read was quite comprehensive - the kk originated from the polynesian isles but when taken to NZ it bred with the CC. The only other trait i have seen is the stripey coat - very 'wild boar'! presumably there is a fair amount of european pig in there....

Re: Pedigrees and Lines??? Genotype information?

Posted: Sat Jun 29, 2013 7:01 pm
by klorinth
That is good to hear.
What I have seen is not with those judges that are very familiar with the breed, it is with those that are more general judges. Those that have been doing it for many years and the breed is relatively new to them. You may have more judges that are breeders of the breeds they judge. That would be very nice to see.

In your reading of their origins have you come across any research that is more recent than the 2004 study by Gongora, et al? That study and the 2001 study by Allen, Matisoo-Smith, Horsbourgh appear to soundly place the origin as Asain and separate from both the European introductions and the Pacific Island pigs. I find that quite surprising but not impossible. There are some Homo Sapien archeological theories regarding migration in the region that would support a separate origin. Not that they aren't considered controversial as well.

Re: Pedigrees and Lines??? Genotype information?

Posted: Mon Jul 01, 2013 2:23 am
by klorinth ... etics.html

This article on colour genetics is exactly the kind of thing I am interested in reading. Combining this with a photo pedigree database can tell you a lot about the breed and what is happening to it. The photos need to be of the new born piglets though, before they begin to change. A truer picture of what the genotype might be.

I assume the BKKPS database of pedigrees does not include photos of the piglets. But does it include the colour and pattern of each registered pig?