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Thesis: Selection of Finnhorse stallions for cryopreservation

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From Theseus.fi

Isanta_vetokoe

Isäntä, photo by Hippos photo bank/Pirje Fager-Pintilä

Lately there has been a lot of talk about the extinction and preservation of the Finn horse. The breed is not yet endangered, but the researchers and breeders worry that the genetic material is narrowing (too fast). If we don’t act now, there might be problems in the future.

So far I know one Finn horse stallion whose semen has been frozen, Taikuri.

One option could be cryopreserving the genetic material. Saija Tenhunen and Tytti Salonpää from Savonia University of Applied Sciences made their thesis on the subject in 2016.

Abstract in English:

The goal of our thesis is to make a candidate list of stallions that could be chosen for cryopreservation. In our thesis we will research inbreeding coefficients, generation intervals and effective population size of Finnhorses born between 1960 and 2014. We will also research which stallions have had the biggest genetic contributions to the current population and which stallions might be the best candidates for cryopreservation by using the Optimal Contribution Selection (OCS) method. The stallion candidates should be healthy, fertile and represent the current population of Finnhorses. The genetic material in cryopreservation should reflect the genetic structure of the whole population in the best possible way.

In the data from the Finnish Trotting and Breeding Association there were 82 178 animals in total, but after processing the data there were 80 378 animals in total. The pedigree completeness index in five generations was 89.9 %. The inbreeding coefficient for the Finnhorses born in 2014 was on average 4.75 % and the generation interval was 13.56 years. The effective population size calculated for the whole population was 135.8 individuals. Stallions that had the biggest genetic contributions for the current Finnhorse population were Murto, Eri-Aaroni, Suikku, Vokker and Vieteri. We made three different stallion candidate lists: in the first list there were potential stallions born in the last generation (14 years), in the second list there were potential stallions born in the past 20 years and in the third list there were only potential studbook stallions.

We can conclude from our results that in Finnhorse breeding choices they have avoided inbreeding. From the year 1960 the average inbreeding coefficient in the Finnhorse population has increased 4 %, which can be partly explained by increased pedigree information over the years. From the effective population size, we can conclude that at the moment there is enough genetic variation in the population to survive with vitality in the short term (five generations). This breed might have problems surviving with vitality in the long term if the genetic diversity in the breed is ignored when making breeding choices. Ex-situ cryopreservation is the recommended solution for securing the vitality of the Finnhorse population in the future.

With the OCS method we got potential stallion candidates based on their pedigree information that were not in the studbook or in breeding use. However, this method does not include the major lines (trotter) in the choice. So we recommended choosing known trotter stud stallions from outside these candidate lists for cryopreservation. All Finnhorse colors were not included in the candidate lists. To secure phenotypical diversity in the breed, it would be a good option to collect semen from stallions that inherit these colors.

The stallions

Of course, the most interesting part of this thesis for the average horse breeder would be the list of stallions. Which ones they have picked, which stallion should I choose to help preserving the rarest blood lines, what can we do to help our beloved Finn horse the most?

Here you go. The links will take you to Sukuposti horse database.

List 1: Stallions under 14 years of age.

List 2: Stallions max 20 yo.

List 3: Studbook stallions

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