Impressive salmon breeding gains are ‘in the pipeline’

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Addressing delegates at the first Fresh Water Conference in Chile today (Thursday, November 16), Dr Tinch said that a number of valuable advances in salmon breeding were already ‘in the pipeline’ and that they had the potential to be every bit as impressive as the breeding gains already achieved in pigs, poultry and other livestock species. “The difference, of course, is that while pig and poultry advances have taken over 30 years to secure, we’re able to make much more rapid progress in salmon using state of the art methods of genetic selection,” he said. “As a result, we’re seeing improvements in salmon across a wide range of factors, such as health, welfare, flesh quality, disease resistance and the cost of production. “In commercial terms that means we’re looking at major advances in salmon farming efficiency purely as a result of developments in genetic selection. That’s what pig and poultry breeders have achieved. - In the pig sector, for example, lean meat production costs have been reduced by 20% in the last 20 years. Poultry breeders, meanwhile, have achieved a 49% reduction in breast meat production costs since the mid-1970s. In both cases these ‘bottom line’ advances have been due to a combination of improving growth rates and meat yield whilst maintaining good liveability. Salmon breeding is definitely capable of delivering similar benefits. Dr Tinch added that while breeding developments at LNS are balanced across a host of different traits, progress towards improving robustness was the factor which would deliver the most rapid and tangible pay-back for producers over the next few years. - Comparing breeding progress for salmon, pigs and poultry, we’re already predicting comparable growth rate and meat yield improvements, he said. “LNS salmon growth rates are estimated to be improving by 3-5% a year while our meat yield figures are forecast to increase by 0.5-1% a year. Finally, Dr Tinch, who has 18 years of livestock breeding experience across pigs, poultry and salmon, was careful to make the point that attention to breeding should never be viewed in isolation, no matter how good the individual breeding programme may be. - While I obviously believe strongly in the importance of livestock breeding, genetic selection alone will never be enough to deliver long-term benefits, he said. Successful livestock production is always based on four key elements; namely good management, health, nutrition and genetic selection. That’s the total package, and that’s the combination which we need to follow for salmon if we’re to create a sustainable and profitable long-term industry. Background information: Landcatch was founded by the Scottish-based family-run Lithgows’ business 25 years ago at Ormsary Estate, Argyll, initially for operation as a land-based salmon production unit. The company made its first major investment in advanced breeding technology for stock improvement in 1996 to concentrate on the specialist production of eggs and salmon smolts. The business today consists of Landcatch Ltd., based at Ormsary in Argyll and Landcatch Natural Selection Ltd. (LNS), based at Alloa near Stirling, also in Scotland. The company has production units in both Scotland and Chile. In Scotland, Landcatch has smolt production sites located at Ormsary, Clachbreac, Foyers and Gairloch, plus cage sites on Jura and Islay. Production units in Chile are based at Cululi and Curacalco. Landcatch in Scotland produces 5 million smolts plus parr to order. LNS currently produces 50 million eggs in Scotland and through Landcatch Chile currently produces 30 million eggs and 4 million smolts. LNS is Lithgows’ specialist breeding business, controlling all breeding advances and egg production developments. LNS supplies eggs to customers in Scotland, Ireland, France, Chile and the Faroes. The LNS breeding programme is based on a fully traceable bank of ten years of recorded samples from various salmon families and matings. As a result, LNS and Landcatch in Scotland are currently producing eggs and smolts from 200 salmon families per year while Landcatch Chile uses 160 families to produce its new stock. Potential matings in each case are based on carefully analysed stock performance, which allows continuing stock improvement to be focused on a wide range of desired production traits.