Renaissance of the Danish “Bacon Pig”

by Editor
Monday, April 23, 2012

The Danish Landrace 1970 - also known as the "Bacon Pig" - has received a genetic boost. By using frozen semen, "old" genes have successfully been re-introduced to the breed. This has huge impact on the preservation of the breed.

Ten piglets have been brought into this world using 16-year-old frozen semen from a boar not previously used for breeding. This may help preserve the breed in its original form.

Today, all production pigs are crosses of two or three different breeds. There are very few animals of the original Danish Landrace left compared to 1970 when it was regarded as the world's best, says Torkild Liboriussen, a retired scientist at Aarhus University.

The population of the Danish Landrace 1970 is very small, and it is characterised by a very high degree of inbreeding, which may cause diseases, problems with reproduction, etc., which complicates efforts to preserve the breed. There is a need for a sustainable breeding plan to maintain the breed. That is why the piglets on the farm in the central part of Jutland are of great importance.

Two or three boars from the new litter are going to be used as breeding animals which will reduce inbreeding, says Torkild Liboriussen.

It is essential that Danish Landrace 1970 is maintained as a pure breed, as genes from the breed may be of importance in pig breeding in the future. It is also important to preserve the breed for purely historical reasons.

The use of the frozen semen to give the Danish Landrace 1970 a revival was an initiative coming from Lise Lund Andersen. Some years ago she bought a 30-kg Danish Landrace sow as the family's pet pig. At that time, she did not intend to use the sow for breeding. However, in 2011 she decided that she would contribute to the preservation of the Danish Landrace.

Lise Lund Andersen has worked as manager of a modern breeding herd and has extensive experience in insemination of sows.

She contacted the secretary of the Genetic Resources Committee Helle Palmø in the Danish AgriFish Agency. The Genetic Resources Committee, whose mandate expired at the end of 2011, had the task to support preservation of Danish livestock genetic resources. The committee's gene bank, situated at AU Foulum, has frozen semen from seven different boars and frozen embryos. The genetic material is from 1996 and originates from a control line of the Danish Landrace of 1970 from the closed "Tylstrup" experimental station.

The piglets are living proof that the frozen semen is functional and that the gene bank thus has the potential of preserving the Danish Landrace 1970, says Vivi Hunnicke Nielsen, associate professor at Aarhus University and former member of the Genetic Resources Committee.