Unique breeding and selection programme established
03 December 2009
EXCLUSIVE Dawnfresh Seafoods and its subsidiary Dawnfresh Farming produces more than 7,000t of trout pa from its sites, mostly in Scotland, with additional farms in Yorkshire and Northern Ireland. By Graham Young.
The processing facilities in Uddingston just outside Glasgow supply gutted trout, trout fillets and a range of value added products to the UK’s leading multiple retailers. As category leader Dawnfresh is committed to growing sales of trout through a range of marketing and new product development activities.
At the heart of these developments is a key project the company has undertaken to establish - a unique breeding and selection programme. It is tailored to complement the Dawnfresh business plan, delivering stocks ideally suited to the Dawnfresh operation and the UK trout market.
Dawnfresh has entered into a long-term collaborative agreement with Landcatch Natural Selection Ltd (LNS Ltd) based in Alloa, Scotland to provide genotyping and genetic advice. LNS Ltd is a world leader in breeding programme genetics and management. The experience it has have built up in establishing its own successful salmon breeding programmes in Scotland and in Chile has already proven to be invaluable to Dawnfresh.
The initial stage of the project required the creation of pedigree breeding groups from broodstock used by Dawnfresh. Over a three year period from 2007 broodstock has been selected for good performance while maintaining representation from families in the original population.
Once the pedigree (family) structure of each population is known, information on traits such as fillet yield, fat content, growth rate and flesh colour collected on individual fish and their siblings can be used to identify the best fish for breeding. The best individuals from high performing families are crossed to produce the next generation of Dawnfresh trout.
Pedigree breeding programmes require individual animals to be identified on a number of occasions and the family of each animal to be known. Two technologies are used in fish breeding programmes to achieve this: Radio Frequency Identification and Genetic Fingerprinting or Genotyping.
Radio Frequency Identification Technology has been developing over many years and people are now familiar with the wide range of applications from use in modern passports, through automated road toll charging schemes, to the chips used in the timing of long distance races.
The breeding programme uses a sub-set of this technology, Passive Integrated Transponders or PIT tags. Measuring only 11 by 2mm, these glass encapsulated tags can be safely inserted into the body cavity of a fish with a minimum of stress.
Similar technology is used for recognition of pet dogs and cats. All prospective broodstock is given a PIT tag with a unique code, enabling the fish to be identified and traced with a portable reader at any time during the breeding cycle.
DNA fingerprinting or genotyping is now commonplace in forensics and paternity testing. Small samples of biological tissue can be analysed to uniquely identify individual humans or animals. Additionally, because the genetic markers are inherited from parents to offspring, the parents of each animal can be determined from it’s genotype pattern.
Tissue samples taken at PIT tagging are genotyped to assign the family of each individual by referring back to parental samples.
With support from LNS Ltd, the genetic fingerprints and the PIT tags are used to find and select specific fish for crossing. The resulting fertilised eggs are hatched and grown in closely monitored conditions at the Dawnfresh broodstock operation in Northern Ireland.
Data collected on fish during growth and in sibling groups used to measure harvest performance is analysed using statistical software to calculate the genetic merit of each individual and family within the breeding programme.
The fish that are the best match to Dawnfresh’s long-term performance requirements are chosen as parents to produce the next generation.
This is a strategic project using modern technology to assist with breeding for trout which meet the needs and requirements of modern producers. Traditional methods of breeding are less effective in improving the quality traits required by the modern consumer.
The genotyping methods developed by LNS and used in the Dawnfresh breeding programme can also be used for traceability. Samples of trout at any stage of the production process from farm to supermarket shelf can be genotyped.
This genotype can be used to confirm that the parents of the individual trout were part of the Dawnfresh pedigree breeding programme and as such were selected for high performance and excellent quality.
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