Four decades of official Nordic cooperation in conservation of Farm Animals – paving the way towards a sustainable future

Svart häst som står framför vatten med berg i bakgrunden.

It ‘all’ began 40 years ago; while concerns regarding loss of genetic variation were already expressed in the 1950’s-1960’s and conservation efforts began in the 1970’s, more organised activities in conservation began in the 1980’s. In 1992, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was adopted at the United Nations-conference in Rio de Janeiro, with the aim of conserving biodiversity, while securing both sustainable use of biological resources and fair distribution of the benefits yielded from utilising the genetic resources.

Following CBD, various research on farm animals (both native and commercial) was conducted, leading to important innovations in the field – especially in terms of genetics and breeding strategies. Efforts have been directed towards the conservation of small populations, which involved using pedigrees and DNA markers(1b) as well as evaluating genotype-environment interactions in Nordic cattle breeds (1c, 1e). The Nordic Gene Bank for Farm Animals NGH(4a) and, subsequently, the Nordic Genetic Resource Center (NordGen) have also served as platforms for commercial cattle breeding organisations. This is exemplified by their collaboration on the joint Nordic livestock breeding evaluation project(1i) and the project aiming to improve the Nordic red breeds through the combination of the MOET program and progeny testing (1d), which both can be viewed as part of the initial phase toward a unified Nordic breeding evaluation. While certain studies initially encountered challenges due to competitive dynamics and were ahead of their time, their significance has become increasingly evident, and their relevance is on the rise. For instance, developing and promoting niche products is anticipated to play a pivotal role in creating additional value as technologies and expertise continue to evolve. Additionally, it is noteworthy that Nordic breeding organisations are increasing their collaboration, further emphasizing the importance of cooperative efforts.

Nordic collaboration
For many years, the issue of genetic resources has been subject to close Nordic collaboration. Within this field, the Nordic Council of Ministers has given priority to the crop, livestock and forest sectors. The Nordic gene bank Farm Animals (NGH) was established in 1984 as a permanent cooperative body under the Nordic Council of Ministers. In this time, the NGH primarily directed its attention towards mainstream breeds until the FAO released the Global plan of Action (GPA) in 2007. The publication solidified dedication of nations to preserving the biological diversity of the world’s animal genetic resources. This commitment aimed to promote the responsible utilization and conservation of global biodiversity, ultimately contributing to global food security for future generations.

In 2008, NGH merged with the Nordic Gene bank (plants) and the Nordic Council for Forest Reproductive material, forming the Nordic Genetic Resource Genter (NordGen), with the aim to conserve and promote the sustainable use of genetic diversity among animals, forests and plants that are important for Nordic agriculture and forestry. In 2010Animal Genetic Resource Council(4b) was founded. The council helps preserve and promote the management of the Nordic farm animals’ genetic resources, and acts as a forum for Nordic co-operation by exchanging knowledge in areas such as research, breeding and conservation of farm animal genetic resources.

The drive to conserve local breeds accelerated significantly in the 2000’s: the status of Nordic poultry breeds and lines suitable for floor production(1f) was evaluated, and new ideas for commercial use of native breeds(1g) were developed to promote the native breeds in 2002. In 2003, a study coordinating and optimizing conservation work of Nordic breeds(1h) was finished. In the following years, the Nordic Baltic sheep diversity study(1j) and the Baltic-Nordic cattle diversity project(1k) were conducted.

What followed was the initiation of various projects to promote the improvement of the Nordic native breed statuses. A study of Nordic brown bees(1m) determined the status and identified key challenges in the conservation of the breed, and the first ever action plan for the Nordic brown bees(2a) was published. Furthermore, the EVA program(3a) was created for monitoring inbreeding risks, and the AnGR-Nordic Net project(1l) was carried out to encourage conservation of animal genetic resources and breeding. Moreover, the genetic rescue of the Lundehund(1q) by using crossbreeding was examined, and optimum contribution selection (OSC) analysis of the Faroese horse(1v) showed that the small population could be sustainably managed when using adequate control measures.

European initiatives

In addition to involvement in Nordic projects, NordGen has actively participated in EU initiatives. Notably, NordGen had an important role in the projects such as “Innovative Management of Animal Genetic Resources” (IMAGE)(1s), which aimed to enhance the use of genetic collections and to upgrade animal gene bank management. The project resulted in the development of genomic methodologies, biotechnologies and bioinformatics for a better knowledge and exploitation of animal genetic resources. Importantly, this project led to the creation of FAO’s practical guide “Innovations in cryoconservation of animal genetic resources” (2b), which is the result of collaboration between NordGen, FAO and 24 countries. The guide is up-to-date and designed to assist gene bank managers, decision-makers, and other relevant stakeholders in making informed choices about the optimal use of cold storage for the management of food and agricultural genetic resources.

A variety of studies focusing on genetic variation (the coastal goat project(1n), and a diversity study of five laying hen breeds within the Norwegian Living Gene bank for Laying Hens (1o)) and characterization (NordMilk(1p) and NordMeat(1r)), were also disseminated – yielding meaningful and interesting results important for future conservation and food production. Further, a collective study mapping the status of and need for characterisation of the Nordic native breeds(1t) represents the initial exploration into characterising Nordic native breeds and aimed at identifying the most significant gaps in knowledge.

Meeting in person

People sitting in a conference room.Workshops are important for strengthening collaboration and sharing information and project discussion. The socio-cultural activity workshop(4c) in 2011 had several aims, including improved collaboration and networking in the North, finding tools to incorporate results from scientific research in socio-economic and political processes, and identification of knowledge- gaps. In 2016, a workshop was held in Reykjavik in relation to the domestic animals in the Viking Age (DAVA)(4e) project. The aim was to establish a strong interdisciplinary research network for collaboration in the study of domestic mammals and their value during the Viking Age. The network inspired to embark on more extensive and multidisciplinary projects, including the 3MC Nordic Mountain cattle – cultural heritage and genetics(1u). This project aimed to foster awareness about three sister breeds, highlighting their shared origins and cultural heritage. The endeavour exceeded expectations in terms of successfully raising awareness.

Collaboration is one of the key aspects in conservation. The Nordic brown bee network(4d) – which aims to coordinate activities concerning conservation and the sustainable use of Nordic brown bees – have been vital in publishing important reports and recommendations, and in the formation of a public platform promoting the species. Further, the establishment of the Northen European Horse Network(4f), coordinated by NordGen, further led to the dissemination of the ongoing genomic characterization project(1w) which includes a large variety of Scandinavian horse breeds. Close collaboration with different stakeholders from the Faroe Islands has also allowed the production of the Action plan for the Faroese horse(2c). Further, the ongoing collaborative NordFrost project(4g) – focusing on developing a regional action plan for Nordic cryopreservation activities – has led to successful workshops teaching new techniques in sample collections, and the promotion of gene banking efforts for ensuring the future availability of animal genetic resources.

Please explore below more comprehensive descriptions of the activities related to animal genetic resources. Please note that this list does not encompass all NGH’s or NordGen’s activities.


Nordic cattle breed diversity study – 1994 (1a)

Cows walking in a forestThe study aimed to assess genetic diversity in 15 native Nordic cattle breeds with DNA markers, and examined gene frequencies for colour patterns and horn types in 22 breeds. The results created a family tree with three topographies and four main genetic groups. The project investigated breed origins and the impact of genetic drift on diversity in northern European cattle breeds. It found that several populations have dangerously small effective population sizes, highlighting the need for diversity preservation measures. The project collected crucial data on breed relationships, aiding in genetic diversity conservation, and emphasized the consideration of gene losses and variations when selecting breeds for conservation. The project’s findings remained valuable and were used actively afterwards in other projects.

Collaborators involved: Norway, Finland, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, NGH.

Conservation of small populations based on pedigrees and DNA markers– 1998(1b)

To develop effective methods for minimizing the loss of genetic diversity in small populations, a combination of pedigree or DNA information with embryo transfer was employed. Simulation tools were developed to simulate alternative breeding strategies aimed at conserving genetic diversity. The results of this project demonstrate that when managing inbreeding, the utilization of genetic markers and modern reproductive technologies effectively mitigates the adverse effects of intensive selection. The findings and efforts of this project served as the foundation for the development of the EVA program in the subsequent project, titled “Inavelsprogram på data för användning i ordinarie husdjurkontrollen”

Collaborators involved: Denmark

Clarification of genotype and production environment for the alternative old Nordic cattle breed Coloursided Troender and Nordland cattle (STN) – 1998(1c)

Cow with a red and purple sky in the backgroundThis project aimed to assess the breed’s maintenance requirements and production efficiency in production compared to the Norwegian red cattle (NRF). Results from this project illustrated distinguishing factors in milk production, cattle health, and feed consumption exist between these two breeds. These variations are particularly evident in extensive mountain pastures, where the vegetation tends to comprise a diverse range of plants, often less nutritionally rich. In practice, there has been a rising demand for specific products that prioritize quality and unique characteristics associated with various breeds, particularly for use in niche markets. The establishment of locally branded goods connects with the recognition that these skills are being put into practice, and the demand for such products is continously increasing in Nordic countries as well.

Collaborators involved: Norway. 

Combination of MOET program and progeny testing program for the improvement of Nordic Red – 1998 (1d)

The project aimed to investigate the possibilities of using multiple embryo transfer in an effective way within the Nordic cattle breeds. The calculations involved simulations using actual data from the Finnish Ayrshire. A substantial improvement was made, nearly doubling the genetic progress compared to the current situation. This improvement was particularly notable when utilizing heifers as embryo donors, highlighting the clear advantages of incorporating modern reproductive technology in a balanced manner into breeding programs.

Collaborators involved: Finland.

Investigation of genotype-environment interactions among Nordic cattle breeds using reaction norm – 1999 (1e)

The project aimed to study how genetics and the environment affect production and reproductive traits in Nordic cattle breeds across borders. It involved analysing field data and simulations and revealed that ranking bulls based on their daughters’ performance in specific environments could be advantageous. The findings indicated stronger interaction effects in fertility and health traits than production traits. These results were practical for more informed breeding evaluations across northern borders, thus improving selection decisions.

Collaborators involved: Sweden

Nordic poultry breeds – 2002 (1f)

Red chickenThe project aimed to assess suitable poultry breeds for free-range egg production in the Nordic countries, considering animal welfare and organic production. Findings revealed varying adaptability among poultry lines but lacked a comprehensive cross-country evaluation. As a result, proposals were made for a trial involving multiple well-suited breeds and lines for non-cage egg production.

Collaborators involved: Norway, Finland, Sverige, NGH. 

Developing Strategies for Niche Products Utilizing Traditional Breeds – 2002 (1g)

This project aimed to assess branded goods associated with old native breeds, focusing on specific breed-related products and sustainable principles for success. It also explored the use of domestic animals for landscape maintenance in depopulated areas while conserving local breeds, offering recommendations for future actions and research. While breed-linked specialties in the Nordic region have been limited compared to places like France, there is potential in Nordic nations, with growing interest and activity. This report served as a valuable foundation for fresh perspectives and creative inspiration, especially for those exploring niche production alternatives.

Collaborators involved: Norway, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, NGH.

Coordination and optimization of conservation work of breeds in the Nordic region – 2003 (1h)

The project’s aim was to streamline and enhance the coordination and optimization of breed conservation efforts in northern regions. Its objective was to provide comprehensive guidelines on the appropriate approaches to conservation work in diverse scenarios, considering factors such as population size, structure, and other relevant considerations.

The project created a data application on the NGH website, offering essential breeding parameters for different populations. It emphasized simplicity and accessibility. Additionally, the project provided comprehensive guidelines for effective conservation, particularly for small populations. It conducted assessments of endangered populations in the Nordic region, with reports available on the website under “Baltisk & Nordisk husdjursregister.” Practical directives for breed associations and other stakeholders were also provided.

Collaborators involved: Iceland, Finland, Norway, NGH

Optimizing the utilization of the Nordic Red population as a genetic asset – 2003 (1i)

The project aimed to optimize the use of Nordic red cattle for sustainable dairy production, aligning with long-term breeding goals and the Nordic model. It addressed critical questions regarding the effective management of the cattle population. The project’s results showed that a Nordic breeding strategy, focusing on longevity and carrying capacity, can give a competitive edge over other high-yield dairy breeds globally. It also discussed cooperative approaches and shared use of each country’s bull material, considering the balance between selection, inbreeding, and the interaction of heritage and environment. This project provided a thorough scientific analysis specific to Nordic dairy cow breeding, vital for collaborative initiatives. These findings, developed with input from institutions and top breeding companies, can be swiftly applied to practical breeding strategies.

Collaborators involved: Norway, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, NGH.

The Nordic Baltic sheep diversity project – 2005 (1j)

The study evaluated the genetic variation within and between breeds of three native and four modern Baltic sheep breeds using 21 microsatellite loci and Bayesian clustering methods. The study aimed to ensure rational decision-making regarding management of resource resources. The findings provided crucial insights into breed maintenance, such as suggesting crossbreeding as a viable solution to mitigate inbreeding issues.

Collaborators involved: Finland, Latvia, Denmark, Sweden, Lithuania, Norway, Estonia, Iceland.

The Baltic-Nordic cattle breed diversity study – 2006 (1k)

This study integrated the findings from both Y-chromosome and mitochondrial analyses to elucidate the evolutionary changes within the gene pool of Nordic and Baltic breeds. Consequently, it becomes possible to pinpoint distinct breeds that offer novel insights for conservation efforts. Genetic distances and relationships were established through the examination of DNA markers.

Collaborators involved: Finland, Denmark, Norway, Estonia, Sweden, NGH.

The AnGR-Nordic Net – 2011-2013(1l)

The network aimed to promote conservation of animal genetic resources and breeding in climate change. NordGen played a dual role as a partner and project manager for AnGR-NordicNET, a NordForsk-funded research initiative that ran from 2011 to 2013. During this period, a workshop in Vilnius from November 4th to 8th brought together 40 participants from 9 countries, including commercial breeders and animal genetic resource conservation institutions.

Collaborators involved: led by Norway and NordGen.

The Nordic Brown Bee Study – 2011-2014 (1m)

The report summarizes the status on the Nordic brown bee in the Nordic-Baltic region, describes the distinctiveness of the Nordic brown bee and identifies the major challenges for the conservation of this endangered subspecies.

Collaborators involved: Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, NordGen. 

The Coastal Goat Project -2015 (1n)

The Norwegian Coastal Goat is a national and endangered breed, divided into continental and island populations. This study examined the genetic diversity of the Skorpa Island population by comparing it to the mainland population (Selje) and using Norwegian dairy goats as a reference. The research revealed that the Skorpa Island population exhibited reduced genetic diversity, increased levels of inbreeding, and a significant genetic separation from mainland populations. Furthermore, its contribution to the overall genetic diversity of the entire breed was relatively limited. The study recommended introducing genetic diversity into the Skorpa Island population as a crucial step in conservation efforts.

Collaborators involved: Norway & NordGen.

Genetic diversity study of laying hens at the Norwegian Living Gene Bank at HVAM – 2016 (1o)

The Norwegian Living Gene Bank for Laying Hens at HVAM is dedicated to preserving the genetic heritage of national breeds and historically significant lines in Norwegian poultry breeding. This project extensively studied the genetic diversity of five laying hen breeds within the gene bank. Utilizing a 600k SNP chip, the primary objectives were to assess realised inbreeding, explore genetic diversity within and between these lines, and determine the genetic distances separating them. The project enhanced the understanding of Norwegian laying hen genetics, aiding breed prioritization.

Collaborators involved: Norway, Germany, NordGen.

NordMilk – 2016-2017 (1p)

While numerous prior studies had highlighted notable breed differences in milk properties, a systematic characterization of milk from native Nordic breeds had been absent. Recognising the significance of characterising the functional and physical attributes of this milk, particularly in relation to its suitability for cheese production and potential health-promoting qualities, NordMilk was established with the primary objective of ensuring the sustainable utilisation of these breeds. The NordMilk project facilitated the creation of a network comprising research groups from  Nordic countries, with NordGen serving as the pivotal network coordinator during 2016-2017. Financial support for the project was provided by NKJ.

Collaborators involved: Iceland, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, NordGen.

A case study of the Norwegian Lundehund – 2017 (1q)

Puppet in brown and whiteGenetic rescue, outcrossing with individuals from a related population, is used to augment genetic diversity in populations threatened by severe inbreeding and extinction. The endangered Norwegian Lundehund dog underwent at least two severe bottlenecks in the 1940s and 1960s that each left only five inbred dogs, and the approximately 1500 dogs remaining world-wide today appear to descend from only two individuals. The Lundehund has a high prevalence of a gastrointestinal disease, to which all remaining dogs may be predisposed. Outcrossing was currently performed with three Nordic Spitz breeds: Norwegian Buhund, Icelandic Sheepdog, and Norrbottenspets, and the authors recommended crossbreeding with multiple breeds as the best strategy to increase genetic diversity for the Lundehund and to reduce the incidence of health problems.

Collaborators involved: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, NordGen.

NordMeat – 2018-2019 (1r)

The project “NordMeat – characterization of meat from native Nordic breeds” aimed at stimulating and coordinating activities that characterizes meat from native Nordic breeds. Functional differences in the meat quality were documented and the use of them were promoted. The project led to the establishment of a research network between NordGen and the Nordic Countries.

Collaborators involved: Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Finland, NordGen.

The Innovative Management of Animal Genetic Resources (IMAGE) project – 2016-2020 (1s)

The aim of IMAGE was to enhance the use of genetic collections and to upgrade animal gene bank management. IMAGE further developed genomic methodologies, biotechnologies, and bioinformatics for a better knowledge and exploitation of animal genetic resources. The project involved 28 partners, including 3 small businesses, 3 non-profit organizations, the FAO, 9 research institutions, and 11 higher education and research institutions, with INRA acting as the coordinating partner. This collaboration encompassed thirteen European countries, Switzerland, and four non-European nations: Argentina, Colombia, Egypt, and Morocco. The project was funded by the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme of the European Union.

The status and need for characterization of Nordic AnGR – 2020 (1t)

This study’s objective was to provide a quantitative assessment of phenotypic and genetic characterization of Nordic native breeds, through a literature search and obtaining census data. Six species and 85 breeds were included. Studies were classified according to six distinct categories of characterization. Results showed that a substantial percentage of the breeds are not characterized at all. Moreover, most breeds have extremely low census sizes. A substantial effort to increase population sizes and document characteristics of Nordic native breeds, to promote conservation and sustainable use, is needed.

Collaborators involved: NordGen

3MC – Nordic Mountain Cattle – 2019-2022 (1u)

3MC – Nordic Mountain Cattle” was a multidisciplinary project committed to thoroughly investigating, preserving, communicating, and sharing the narratives related to three Mountain cattle breeds in Finland, Sweden and Norway. The knowledge acquired from this effort enabled us to better understand the cultural heritage linked to these cattle breeds, and helped us appreciate their relevance in today’s world. By exploring the breed’s history and the strong bond between humans and animals, our goal was to increase awareness and promote partnerships that will uncover new possibilities for utilizing the unique traits of Nordic Mountain Cattle, thus ensuring their preservation for future generations. The project was financed with a grant from Interreg Nord, Lapin liitto and Länsstyrelsen Norrbotten 2019-2022.

Collaborators involved: Finland, Denmark, Sweden, NordGen. 

Optimum contribution selection (OCS) analysis for successful conservation actions for Faroese Horse population – 2013 (1v)

The Faroese horse, a critically endangered indigenous horse breed, is a part of the cultural and societal heritage of the Faroe Islands. Unfortunately, the breed has gone through a severe bottleneck in the past, and the population suffers from high rates of inbreeding and a low effective population size.The aim of this study was to test the following hypothesis:” the Faroese horse expresses extremely low genetic diversity and high levels of inbreeding, and that further rapid increase in inbreeding can be circumvented by using OCS.” Pedigree analysis was carried out to evaluate the genetic diversity, effective population size was estimated, OSC was used to explore the possibilities for sustainable management of the breed and recommendations were suggested.

Collaborators involved: Norway, the Faroe Islands, NordGen.

The Nordic native horses – Genomic characterization project – 2022-2024 (1w)

The project, which is a result of the Nordic Native Horse Network coordinated by NordGen, consists of a research group with bioinformaticians, animal geneticists and representatives of the native horse associations. Together, they will characterize the Nordic native horse breeds. In the initial phase, samples from close to 100 Swedish and Norwegian horses from seven different breeds have been collected. The research is funded by Stiftelsen Hästforskning. Within the project, genetic characterisation will be used as a tool to gather knowledge about sustainable breeding of the Nordic native horse breeds. The project will continue until the end of 2024.

Collaborators involved: Norway, Sweden, NordGen

Read more at this page

Action plans and manuals (2)

The Brown Bee Action Plan (2a)

The Nordic brown bee, known as Apis mellifera mellifera, is the native honeybee subspecies in the Nordic region. Today, the native Nordic brown bee faces endangerment because of displacement and hybridization with introduced subspecies. To combat this issue, NordGen, in collaboration with its stakeholders in Nordic Brown bee network, published an action plan in 2014. The action plan was updated five years later in 2019. The plan emphasizes several key aspects, including the distinct advantages of the Nordic brown bee’s local adaptation, such as its ability to thrive at lower temperatures and its potential resistance to parasitic threats. Within the plan, there are 18 recommended actions outlined, encompassing initiatives such as facilitating the exchange of breeding material, promoting the commercial production of Nordic brown queen bees, and fostering a robust beekeeper network. The overarching goal is to actively promote the preservation of this invaluable native bee subspecies, ensuring its presence in the Nordic region.

Network: Nordic Brown bee network

Collaborators involved: Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, NordGen. 

Cryo tank with a hand holding a stick.FAO guidelines: Innovations in cryoconservation of animal genetic resources. 2020-2023 (2b)

The IMAGE project, which ran from 2016 to 2020, generated a significant amount of new information about the gene banking of animal genetic resources. FAO and NordGen jointly decided to compile this new information into a comprehensive manual. This publication not only addresses recommended practices but also deepens into various other aspects that emerged from the IMAGE project through collaboration with experts and researchers from around the world. The resulting guide is up-to-date and designed to assist gene bank managers, decision-makers, and other relevant stakeholders in making informed choices about the optimal use of cold storage for the management of food and agricultural genetic resources.

Collaborators involved: FAO, NordGen and more than 40 persons from 24 countries.

Action Plan for the Faroese horse – 2023-2024 (2c)

The purpose of the Action Plan for the Conservation of the Faroese Horse is to highlight concrete actions and measures that need be implemented to conserve the horse breed for the future.

Snippet from plan:

“Horses arrived in the Faroe Islands with Norse settlers during the 9th and 10th centuries, adapting to their challenging environment over time. These small, robust horses were used by farmers for agriculture and occasionally for local transport, roaming freely with no focused breeding efforts. The first recorded population in 1857 numbered 844 horses. Exportation to British coal mines and modernization nearly led to their extinction by the 1960s, with only a handful remaining. A rescue operation began with breeding efforts, but today, the descendants are traced back to just four individuals. The Faroese Horse Association was founded in 1978 to conserve the breed and maintain a studbook. In 2018, the online pedigree system, Føroya Fongur, was launched to provide access to extensive breed information. As of 2023, 86 Faroese horses exist, demonstrating owners’ dedication and the association’s work. However, challenges remain, and proactive measures are vital to ensure the breed’s survival as a part of Faroese cultural heritage. All Nordic countries, including the Faroe Islands, have adhered to the Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources (GPA) since 2007, emphasizing the need for research and information on native farm animal breeds. Increased characterization, encompassing phenotypic, genetic, and historical data, is crucial (FAO, 2007).”

Collaborators involved: The Faroe Islands & NordGen

Useful tools (3)

EVA – 2006 (3a)

The software program EVA has been developed by NordGen to monitor inbreeding risks and share breeding recommendations for small populations of farm animals. The program is available for free download for Windows, Linux and Mac. Read more at:

Collaborators involved: Denmark & NordGen

Collaboration, gene banks and workshops (4)

Nordic Gene Bank for Farm Animals (NGH) – 1984 (4a)

The Nordic Gene Bank for Farm Animals was founded in 1984 as a lasting collaborative institution under the Nordic Council of Ministers. Initially, it operated with a small team of three individuals and had its board featuring one representative from each Nordic nation. The organisation was based in Ås, within the Department of Animal Sciences at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU).

NordGen’s Council for Animal genetic resource council – 2010-present(4b)

NordGen’s Animal Genetic Resources (AnGR) Council is an important part of NordGen’s expert network and contributes to the continuity of work. The Council contributes to ensuring that NordGen’s work is of high quality and relevance. The AnGR Council consists of two members from each Nordic country. They help to preserve and promote the management of the Nordic farm animals’ genetic resources by participating in projects and other activities coordinated by NordGen. The Council also acts as a forum for Nordic co-operation by exchanging knowledge in research, breeding, and conservation of farm animal genetic resources.

Members: Denmark, Sweden, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Norway, and Finland

Read more about the council at this page.  

Socio-cultural Activity – workshop in 2011 (4c)

The aim of the workshop was to provide information and updates regarding the current state-of-the art on the research fields, to help to determine the tools necessary to incorporate the scientific results in socio-economic and political processes, identify gaps in the scientific knowledge, to promote new scientific proposals and hopefully improve networking in the north.

Nordic Brown Bee Network (4d)

NordGen’s work with the Nordic brown bee has been active for several years. In cooperation with experts from the Nordic countries, the status for the bee has been summarised and a conservation plan published. The conservation plan has thereafter been released in a second version with recommendations. Further, a public platform (Brown Bee Wiki) has been established, gathering information about specific management practises for the brown bee. The Nordic network of beekeepers and other relevant stakeholders has been promoted. The network’s aim has been to coordinate conservation and sustainable use of Nordic brown bees.

Domestic Animals in the Viking Age (DAVA) workshop Reykjavik – workshops in 2016 (4e)

DAVA was an interdisciplinary project, which merged archaeology, osteology, historical studies, and population genetics and genomics. The goal was to use domestic animals as a proxy to study migration, trade, and environmental adaptation in Northern Europe during the Viking Age. DAVA held workshops to establish an interdisciplinary research network, uniting archaeology, zooarchaeology, ancient DNA, and modern genetics experts. Their goal was to enhance the study of domestic mammals during the Viking Age and deepen understanding of migration, trade, and environmental adaptation during this transformative period in Northern European societies.

Collaborators involved: Sweden, Finland, Greenland, Estonia, UK, Denmark, Norway, the Faroe Island, NordGen. 

The Northern European Horse Network – 2019 (4f)

The purpose of the network is to exchange knowledge and support the efforts done for safeguarding the native horse breeds in the different countries, promote a sustainable use of them and to produce educational material about the breeds targeting both members of the breeding organisations and the general public. Nordic-Baltic network for native horse breeds met for the first time in a workshop arranged by NordGen in Oslo 2020.

NordFrost – 2021-2024 (4g)

Within the NordFrost project, stakeholders will develop a regional action plan for Nordic cryopreservation activities. It will develop common procedures for cryopreservation by describing the existing best practices, while mapping weaknesses so that they can be improved. In the long term, these guidelines will help increase the resilience of the Nordic agriculture.

Collaborators involved: Norway, Denmark, the United Kingdom and NordGen.


Nordic Baltic sheep diversity project

Tapio, M., Tapio, I., Grislis, Z., Holm, L-E., Jeppsson, S., Kantanen, J., Miceikiene, I., Olsaker, I., Viinalass, H., Eythorsdottir, E. 2005. Native breeds demonstrate high contributions to the molecular variation in Northern European sheep. Molecular Ecology 14, 13: 3951-3963.

Meadows, JRS., Li, K., Kantanen, J., Tapio, M., Sipos, W., Pardeshi, V., Gupta, V., Calvo, JH., Whan, V., Norris, B., Kijas, JW. 2005. Mitochondrial Sequence Variation Reveals High Levels of Gene Flow B/etween Sheep Breeds from Asia and Europe. Journal of Heredity 96: 494-501.

Tapio, I., Tapio, M., Grislis, Z., Holm, L-E., Jeppsson, S., Kantanen, J., Miceikiene, I., Olsaker, I., Viinalass, H., Eythorsdottir, E. 2005. Unfolding of population structure in Baltic sheep breeds using microsatellite analysis. Heredity 94: 448-456.

Grigaliunaite, I., Tapio, M., Viinalass, H., Grislis, Z., Kantanen, J., Miceikiene, I. 2003. Microsatellite variation in the Baltic sheep breeds. Veterinarija ir zootechnika 21: 66-73.

Tapio, M., Miceikiene, I., Vilkki, J., Kantanen, J. 2003. Comparison of microsatellite and blood protein diversity in sheep: inconsistencies in fragmented breeds. Molecular Ecology 12: 2045-2056.

Baltic-Nordic cattle breed diversity study:

Tapio, I., Värv, S., Bennewitz, J., Maleviciute, J., Fimland, E., Grislis, Z., Meuwissen, T.H.E.,  Miceikiene, I., Olsaker, I., Viinalass, H., Vilkki, J.,  Kantanen, J. 2006. Prioritization for conservation of northern European cattle breeds based on analysis of microsatellite data. Conservation Biology 20, 6: 1768-1779.

Bennewitz, J., Kantanen, J., Tapio, I., Li, M. H., Kalm, E., Vilkki, J., Ammosov, I., Ivanova, Z., Kiselyova, T., Popov, R., Meuwissen, T. H. E. 2006. Estimation of breed contributions to present and future genetic diversity of 44 North Eurasian cattle breeds using core set diversity measures. Genetics Selection Evolution 38: 201-220.

The Nordic Brown Bee study:

Ruottinen, L., Berg, P., Kantanen, J., Kristensen, T. N., Praebel, A., & F. Groeneveld, L. (2014). Status and Conservation of the Nordic Brown Bee: Final report. NORDIC GENETIC RESOURCE CENTER. NordGen publication series 2014:02

Groeneveld, L., Kirkerud, A., Dahle, B., Sunding, M., Flobakk,M., Kjos, M., Henriques, D., Pinto M., & P. Berg (2020). Conservation of the dark bee (Apis mellifera mellifera): Estimating C-lineage introgression in Nordic breeding stocks. Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, Section A — Animal Science, 69:3, 157-168, DOI: 10.1080/09064702.2020.1770327

The Coastal Goat project:

Berg, Peer; Groeneveld, Linn Fenne; Brekke, Cathrine; Våge, Dag Inge; Sørheim, Kristin; Grøva, Lise. Genetic characterization of a small closed island population of Norwegian coastal goat. Acta agriculturæ Scandinavica. Section A, Animal science. 2020, 69 (1-2).

Genetic diversity study of laying hens at the Norwegian Living Gene Bank at HVAM:

Brekke, L. F. Groeneveld, T. H. E. Meuwissen, N. Sæther, S. Weigend & P. Berg (2020). Assessing the genetic diversity conserved in the Norwegian live poultry genebank. Acta Agriculture Scandinavica, Section A.


Sunds AV, Bunyatratchata A, Robinson R, Glantz M, Paulsson M, Leskauskaite D, Pihlanto A, Inglingstad R, Devold TG, Vegarud GE, Birgisdottir BE, Gudjonsdottir M, Barile D, Larsen LB, Poulsen NA. Comparison of bovine milk oligosaccharides in native North European cattle breeds.  Int Dairy J. 2021 Mar; 114:104917.

A case study of the Norwegian Lundehund:

Stronen AV, Salmela E, Baldursdóttir BK, Berg P, Espelien IS, Järvi K, Jensen H, Kristensen TN, Melis C, Manenti T, Lohi H, Pertoldi C. Genetic rescue of an endangered domestic animal through outcrossing with closely related breeds: A case study of the Norwegian Lundehund. PLoS One. 2017 Jun 1;12(6):e0177429. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0177429. PMID: 28570553; PMCID: PMC5453418. 


Therkildsen, M., Vestergaard, M., Kargo, M., Keto, L., Ertbjerg, P., Thorkelsson, G., Gudjónsdóttir, M., Kjetså, M., Honkatukia, M., Egelandsdal, B., Svartedal, N., Røe, M., Fikse, F. W., Karlsson, A. H. and Hessle, A. (2023) “Carcass characteristics of Nordic native cattle breeds”, Genetic Resources, 4(7), pp. 1–19. doi: 10.46265/genresj.LWUP7415.

Innovative Management of Animal Genetic Resources (IMAGE) project:

Innovations in cryoconservation of animal genetic resources. FAO’s practical guide.

The status and need for characterization of Nordic AnGR:

Line Sass Kierkegaard, Linn Fenna Groeneveld, Anne Kettunen & Peer Berg (2020) The status and need for characterization of Nordic animal genetic resources. Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, Section A — Animal Science, 69:1-2, 2-24, DOI: 10.1080/09064702.2020.1722216

3MC – Nordic Mountain Cattle:

The Conservation of Native Domestic Animal Breeds in Nordic Countries: From Genetic Resources to Cultural Heritage and Good Governance by Ulla Ovaska, Auli Bläuer, Charlotte Kroløkke, Maria Kjetså, Juha Kantanen and Mervi Honkatukia (2021).

From Variable Animal Populations to the Nordic Mountain Cattle Breeds” by Hilja Solala in Faravid, Journal of Historical and Archaeological Studies no 54 (2023).

Kulttuuriperintöä, geenivaroja ja ystäviä – Lapinlehmän monet merkitykset) for the Tornedalens Årsbok 2020-2022 by Ulla Ovaska, Hilja Solala, Mervi Honkatukia (2023).

Nordic Cow -game application. The information gathered in the project is distributed through a game application. It will illustrate the consequences of mating selections for the coming generations made by the player: to be successful in the game, the genetic diversity of the animals has to be maintained.

The project in press:

Three drawn cows and the text Snohvit, Punakorna, Fjellblom.Exhibition: “Snöhvit, Punakorva, Fjellblom” exhibition examined the long common journey of man and cattle in the north through historical turning points, the current situation and prospects. The travelling exhibition has been produced in cooperation with NordGen’s 3MC project group and the Tornionlaakso Museum, which also curated the exhibition.


Optimum contribution selection (OCS) analysis for successful conservation actions for Faroese Horse population:

Kettunen, A., Kallsoy Joensen, S. and Berg, P. (2022) “Optimum contribution selection (OCS) analyses prompted successful conservation actions for Faroese Horse population”, Genetic Resources, 3(5), pp. 59–67. doi: 10.46265/genresj.KKXV5870.

The Brown Bee Action Plan:

Publication of second action plan can be found here.

FAO guidelines: Innovations in cryoconservation of animal genetic resources:

Boes, J., Boettcher, P., and M. Honkatukia. Innovations in cryoconservation of animal genetic resources: Practical guide. Food & Agriculture Org., 2023.


Berg P., Nielsen J. and Sørensen M.K. 2006. EVA: Realized and predicted optimal genetic contributions. CD communication 27-09, 2pp. WCGALP, 2006, s.246.