The sorting process is highly accurate and well proven. The technical principle behind separating sperm is based on the DNA difference between sperm cells, as X-bearing sperm cells contain slightly more DNA than those bearing Y-chromosomes. As sperm cells flow through the sorter, the proprietary software detects the difference between X-bearing and Y-bearing sperm cells. They are then separated based on their DNA difference, resulting in up to 99% gender-biased accuracy.
All Fast Genetics customers will benefit from the introduction of sperm sorters at the nucleus level. Specifically, sex-sorted sperm and low-dose semen technology at the nucleus level will allow us to skew gender ratio, accelerating genetic progress in all product lines. Introducing sex-sorted sperm throughout Fast Genetics’ multiplication will allow for an increase in product supply. In the future, we plan to implement sex-sorted sperm at the commercial level with our customers, allowing them to skew gender ratio based on many economic and management factors. This will include slaughter plant partnerships, eliminating the need for castration or feeding single-sex pigs.
The genotyping process begins with the sample of biological material containing cells, when DNA is extracted from cell nuclei and genotyped. This process identifies differences in the animal genome.
Within the same species, the nucleic acid sequencing of the genome is mostly the same. However, when the sequence differs by one single base pair between two or more animals, it is called single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP). An SNP can be responsible for differences in a pig’s observable characteristics (e.g., resistant to porcine stress syndrome). In pigs, most economically important traits are controlled by several regions of the genome (several SNPs).
We evaluate tens of thousands of SNPs per pig using proprietary genomic evaluations. The main purpose for genomic analysis is the use of genomic Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs), which enable accurate selection of young pigs via SNP information to make estimates of how pigs will develop. Practically, the use of genomic EBVs for genomic evaluations translates into significantly faster genetic gain, creating better pigs for our customers.
A phenotype is a set of observable characteristics of a pig, resulting from the interaction of its genotype with the environment. Genetic markers and equations are of little value without accurate phenotypes. Measuring at the right time and the right place is critical. Fast Genetics has developed many different strategies to improve the economic performance of our pigs – for example, phenotypes are measured in the genetic nuclei, at packing plants and commercial farms. All the measurements we record improve key metrics, including total born, piglet weight, feed conversion, and average daily gain.
Feed Intake and Recording Equipment (FIRE) feeders are one example of our commitment to the continued development of novel and accurate phenotypes. Fast Genetics was an early adopter of FIRE feeders, installing the equipment over a decade ago, and this investment allows us to accurately monitor how much pigs eat compared to how quickly they grow. Through the measurement of pigs early in their growth phase and increasing the number of pigs measured, we can dramatically increase the rate of genetic improvement. This results in genetic gain and ultimately better pigs for Fast Genetics’ customers.
Another example is BioQScan, an ultrasound technology that allows for accurate live IMF, loin depth, and backfat measurement of animals on the farm. Fast Genetics proudly helped develop and bring this technology to market, allowing for quicker and more accurate selection decisions in our nucleus farms. This translates to faster genetic gains in commercial herds. You can read more about it here.
Fast Genetics is constantly developing and refining reproductive technologies, such as developing novel catheters or investigating the application of laparoscopic inseminations at scale. These insemination techniques enable the use of sex-sorted sperm.
In addition, we routinely conduct genetic, nutrition, management, carcass, and meat quality research. Genetic, nutrition, and management trials are conducted at dedicated research facilities, with genetic trials to bring about product improvement and new offerings. Nutrition and management trials translate into performance advancements and tailored nutrition specifications or our product lines in all stages of development.
Fast Genetics regularly slaughters siblings of its nucleus selects for full primal cutouts and quality testing. The information gained from carcass and meat quality research is included in Fast Genetics’ selection criteria, improving our customers’ packing plant performance.