What is Conservation Breeding?
So now that we have a common set of definitions, we can come back to the original question: What is Conservation Breeding?
Conservation breeding can be described as a breeding program that protects genetic diversity within a breed. Genetic diversity within a breed “is necessary for the breed’s long-term well-being and commercial utility.” The breed benefits from the presence of many lines, as these distinctive genetic groups provide the material for linecrossing. If the distinct lines within the breed are lost, then there are no longer any groups within the breed to mate with to increase vigor, reproductive measures, and disease resistance, or to avoid a widespread negative trait; it also becomes more difficult to create an outstanding individual with bloom and presence. In extreme cases, breeders may be forced to bring individuals in from outside of the breed to address genetic problems caused by loss of genetic diversity.
Conservation breeding is designed to help a breeder maintain one or more lines, while also reducing inbreeding to manageable levels. In a conservation plan, each line of more closely related individuals is managed as a unit. This unit is alternately bred to a ram from within the line (linebred) and to rams from outside the line (linecross). All daughters are retained in the line, but linecross sons are not retained for breeding. The line as a whole retains its genetic distinctiveness, but inbreeding is reduced as the line consists of individuals with both more and less inbreeding.
Part 1: Conservation Breeding
Part 3: An Example of a Conservation Breeding Plan
Part 4: Three Disadvantages of Conservation Breeding