Who’s Your Daddy:
If you look up “Who’s your Daddy” on Wikipedia you will find this:
Who’s your daddy? is a slang expression that, in one use, takes the form of a rhetorical question. It is commonly used as a boastful claim of dominance over the intended listener
But in the world of breeding any breed with a very narrow genetic base “Who’s Your Daddy” takes on a much more serious meaning. To maintain a genetically sustainable Meishan herd in North America breeders will have to know not just the purity of pigs in the A.M.B.A. registry but levels of inbreeding in projected breeding pairs. The Meishan Breeders Association was not just formed to determine the purity of candidate pigs but to be diligent in building an online pedigree database for its member breeders. We have been working with our vendor for over a year to custom design a pedigree form, litter notification system, and an online member accessible pedigree database. And the entire system has been custom designed for the bloodlines and unique characteristics of the Meishan breed in North America. Today, because of the pedigree data the A.M.B.A. was able to obtain from the USDA Meat Animal Research Center along with the history of the University of Illinois pigs and the co-operation of member breeders, our online database contains over 120 current and ancestral pigs. And that number is growing almost daily. Through our A.M.B.A. advisory council, we are on the verge of gaining access to the Iowa State breeding and dispersal records. This will allow the A.M.B.A. to offer the most complete pedigree history on the Meishan breed ever available in North America. And those pedigrees will include coefficients of inbreeding of individual pigs.I am happy to announce that as this post is being written the first A.M.B.A. Certified Pure Meishan Pig Pedigrees are being compiled and printed. They will be sent to A.M.B.A. member breeders in the coming weeks. With this mailing, a major milestone in the preservation of the Meishan breed will have been reached. An example of one of these pedigrees is shown below:
Each pedigree will note what percentage of foundation stock each pig is and what percentage of each bloodline is represented in that pig. Each pedigree will note the coefficient of inbreeding of the subject pig (as long as there are three generations of pedigree data). With this phase of our database project complete the A.M.B.A. is now working to identify as many previously undocumented but pure Meishan pigs as possible.
The process to build a pedigree database:
Currently, the A.M.B.A. is involved in an extensive National Herd Survey. The purpose of which is to identify pure Meishan pigs (as opposed to Meishan influenced pigs) and recreate breeding branches either working forward from one of the original research herds or backward from a current owner. This has been a complicated undertaking involving reaching out to numerous current owners and trying to determine who their pigs came from. Meishan Pigs are a versatile pig. They are suitable as livestock, pets, pasture ornaments, and their docile nature and unique look makes them popular with small to midsize exotic animal and non-traditional livestock exhibitors. Under the 1966 US Animal Welfare Act all facilities which charge admission to exhibit warm-blooded animals must be licensed. This includes all operations from the small local family-owned petting zoo to the largest municipal zoo. Technically each operation regardless of size is a “zoo” under that law. How each facility acquires stock for exhibition varies. For many of the smaller “zoos”, this sometimes involves exotic animal brokers and very often exotic animal auctions. These auctions do not provide or keep accurate records of either purity or pedigree history. They are merely the sellers of the stock. The consignor is strictly responsible for all representations of purity made at the auction. Our research to date has identified a small number of auctions and an even smaller number of consignors to those auctions that traded in the largest numbers of undocumented Meishan and Meishan influenced pigs. You might find an example where one breeding pair of pigs supplied auctions in Macon Missouri, Cookeville TN and even as far away as California. The exotic animal community is small in comparison to the livestock community but the outlets are far-flung. The consequence of this is that potential Meishan buyers, brokers and subsequent breeders cannot assume that a pig from Tennessee is unrelated to a pig from Florida or a pig from Missouri. Inadvertently excessive inbreeding may be occurring without the knowledge of the breeder or broker. The A.M.B.A. is working with those auctions, consignors, and breeders who are willing to be open about their sales, purchases and breeding records. And we have made tremendous progress in identifying breeding branches and where their progeny were sold. We hope that for the good of the breed more of these parties will come forward or agree to cooperate with the A.M.B.A. in this important research. These small petting zoos and animal exhibitors played a very important role in the preservation and awareness of the Meishan breed. And today they can continue to contribute to preservation effort through an open sharing of information. The American Meishan Breeders Association is an inclusive organization. It is open to, and a benefit for, the pet owner, animal exhibitor, and livestock breeder alike.
Inbreeding and its threat to the Meishan breed
The A.M.B.A. recently posted a new link to our Meishan links page titled “Inbreeding in Swine ” from Extension.org It is an excellent article which explains clearly the definition of Coefficients of Inbreeding, the proper use of planned line breeding and the dangers of inbreeding depression for any breed with limited seed stock. Inbreeding depression occurs when repetitive breedings of highly related pairs occur. Inbreeding depression can cause genetic traits to be completely lost within any breed. Without access to another group of an unrelated (and not similarly inbred) source of stock may result in permanent damage to the affected breed. As undocumented Meishans are transitioned to pedigreed A.M.B.A. Certified Pure Pigs determining purity and rebuilding pedigree history will be equally important.
One key passage from that Extension article reads as follows:
“Inbreeding depression is the decline in performance that is associated with inbreeding. Since inbreeding depression and heterosis from crossbreeding are essentially opposite effects, it is not surprising that the same traits that respond well to crossbreeding will respond adversely to inbreeding. These would include reproductive traits such as libido in boars, litter size, and weight and survival rate. The growth rate is also affected by inbreeding..”
Heterosis is commonly known as “hybrid vigor”. Typically requiring outcrossing to another breed. However, due to the 25-year isolation (and documented genetic differentiation ), A.M.B.A. breeders are seeing improvements in structure, growth rate, litter size and other characteristics that indicate a “heterosis effect” by crossing the three differentiated bloodlines. Conversely, reports of smaller litters, below expected size (to breed description) , low boar libido and much slower growth rates indicate that fears of inadvertent inbreeding may be a real concern in some lines of undocumented pigs. All pure pigs, even those that documented as inbred, are important to the breed because they do possess genetics which needs to be preserved. Proper management of breedings of previously inbred pigs using unrelated pig from other bloodlines can help preserve and restore subsequent generations to full genetic health. This further highlights the value and need for an accurate pedigree database for the breed.
What can you do:
It is in the best interests of the breed if breeders, brokers, exhibitors and auction venues come together in a free exchange of information as it relates to transactions of previously undocumented Meishans. The American Meishan Breeders Association is working to make that happen. The information needed is very basic. It should be readily available. Who bought and who sold. Which pigs were the offspring of which other pigs. If the pigs came from a “zoo” simply share the name and contact info at that zoo. Like a jigsaw puzzle once a few key pieces are identified the rest will fall into place. We have already made great strides tracking previously unknown breeding branches already.If you own an undocumented pig you believe to be a pure Meishan contact your seller, broker or breeder to get the above information. If your pigs came from a zoo simply find out which zoo. Find out the names, ear tag numbers or ear notches of the ancestors of your pigs. Two generations of data should not be that hard to get if all parties cooperate. Once you have that information complete a national herd survey form or just contact the A.M.B.A. at firstname.lastname@example.org. And finally, we encourage everyone interested in helping preserve this incredible breed to join the American Meishan Breeders Association. Memberships start as low as $25 per year and those monies are used to support our research and our work with the Livestock Conservancy. Your membership matters. Then perhaps someday every pure Meishan pig in North America will be able to answer the question “who’s your daddy?”