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Finnish National Animal Genetic Resources Program

In Finland, activities to conserve endangered native breeds were initiated 30 years ago. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry published in 1983 the first report on conservation animal genetic resources, and in the 1980s, the in situ conservation of native breeds of cattle and sheep commenced at the Sukeva and Pelso prison farms.

The National Animal Genetic Resource program was revised in 2004. The Program is coordinated by Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. The activities and progresses of the National Program is supervised and followed by The Council of Genetic Resources under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. In addition to animal genetic resources, the portfolio of the Council includes plant, horticultural and forest genetic resources.
 Objectives of the program
The main objectives of the Finnish National Animal Genetic Resources program are:

  1. Endangered native breeds will not become extinct
  2. Endangered breeds are maintained in an economically sustainable way
  3. The genetic variability of domestic animal breeds remains as wide as possible
  4. A balanced development of production capacity, health and fertility traits is taken into account in breeding programs
  5. Knowledge and awareness of animal genetics, animal breeding and genetic resources are maintained and strengthened.

The program applies to several animal species: horse, chicken, dog, sheep, bees, cattle, reindeer, pigs, fur animals, and goats. Animal breeds within the species are divided into three categories:

  1. The indigenous breeds
  2. Breeds which were originally based on imports, but have currently a relatively long breeding history (many animal generations) in Finland (e.g. Finnish Ayrshire Cattle, Yorkshire Pig, and Texel Sheep)
  3. Breeds recently imported to Finland, whose breeding and management is based on genetic materials from abroad (e.g. Holstein Cattle, all beef cattle breeds, all commercial laying hens)

The Finnish Program focuses on the breeds grouped in the categories 1 and 2.

Activities in Finland
Finland has notable conservation herds (in situ conservation) for native breeds of cattle and sheep: Pelso prison farm in Vaala keeps living gene bank for Northern Finncattle, Finnsheep and Kainuu Grey Landrace, Ahlman Vocational Institute has a living gene bank for Eastern and Western Finncattle and Kainuu Vocational College for Eastern Finncattle. The conservation of the Finnish Landrace Chicken, in turn, is based on a network of 180 preservers of the breed. The participants in the Conservation Network have currently about 2500 Finnish Landrace hens and 800 cocks.

Cattle embryos (Eastern, Northern and Western Finncattle) and semen (the native cattle breeds, Finnsheep, Kainuu Grey Landrace Sheep and Aland Sheep) have been stored in the cryo bank (ex situ preservation).

The breeding programs for farm animal breeds in Finland aim at balancing between high production capacity, health and fertility traits as well as at maintainig genetic variation in breeding populations by controlling inbreeding and kinship rates of breeding animals. For the endangered native cattle breeds, the breeding program is designed using the EVA software .

The research works focus on molecular genetic characterization of different breeds and distinct genetic, socio-cultural and socio-economic values of native breeds. In addition, the processing properties of milk of native cattle breeds are examined and niche products developed.
Progresses achieved in the conservation and management program of national animal genetic resources are communicated in brochures, on Luke’s Internet site  and in a Finnish information bulletin "Animal Genetic Resources", which is published once a year.

Responsible:  Anne Præbel


Responsible authority:
The Council of Genetic Resources
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
PO Box 30
Phone: +358 (0) 295 16 001

Tuula Pehu
Phone: +358 (0) 9 16052839

National Coordinator:
Juha Kantanen
Luke, Natural Resources Institute Finland, Green Technology
Phone: + 358 29 532 6210

Eastern Finncattle. Photo: Mari Laulumaa-Hirvonen