Basic genetics and animal breeding

Our animal breeding course provides a foundation knowledge in animal breeding. The course will provide you with all of the knowledge required to be able to plan the implementation of an animal breeding program. In this course you will learn about:
  • Genetics
  • Selection
  • Pure breeding
  • Cross breeding
  • Livestock improvement


Learn to Manage Animal Breeding

Start with a broad understanding of genetics in the first two lessons, and build your knowledge from there. Breeding Dogs, cats, horses and other animals is a process that can only be understood and applied properly with a sound understanding of the science of genetics. This course provides both the scientific and practical foundation to build skills in breeding any types of animals.



There are 7 lessons as follows:

1. Introduction to Genetics
Plant cells
Animal cells
Cell division - mitosis (asexual reproduction); meiosis (sexual reproduction)
Genes - phenotype and genotype; homogenous and heterogenous
The work of Mendel
Sex determination
2. Genetics
Gene mutations
Lethal genes
Effect of the environment
Hybrid vigour
Genetics in agriculture
3. Selection
Animal breeding programs
Decide on your priorities
Dual purpose animals
Artificial selection
Gene groups
Domestic animals - Dogs, cats etc.
4. Pure Breeding
Inbreeding - close breeding and line breeding
Genetic effects of inbreeding
Advantages and disadvantages
5. Introduction to Cross Breeding
The effects of cross breeding in farm animals
Genetic effects, phenotype effects,heterosis, and genotype effect
Cross breeding in sheep
Cross breeding in domestic animals
6. Cross Breeding
Practical cross breeding
Two breed or single cross
Back cross or crisscrossing
Cyclical crossing
Rotational crossing
Advantages of cross breeeding
Reciprocal recurrent selection
Breed societies
Grading up
7. Livestock Improvement
Performance Testing
Sib Testing
Progeny testing
Relative breeding Values (RBV)
Artificial insemination
Synchroised heats
Ova transplants
Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


Duration: 100 hours



On successful completion of the course you should be able to do the following:

  • Explain genetic influence on the characteristics exhibited by animals.
  • Explain the factors that interact with genes to produce nonconformity in animals.
  • Develop procedures to select animals for a breeding program.
  • Develop an animal straight breeding program.
  • Develop an animal cross breeding program.
  • Explain the commercial methods used to breed farm animals.



Here are just some of the things you may be doing:
  • Explain how genes control the inheritance of characteristics, using two specific examples of animal breeding.
  • Distinguish between the phenotype and the genotype, of a specified farm animal.
  • Distinguish between dominant and recessive gene pairs.
  • Explain the differences in the function of chromosomes, of a specified fowl, when compared with a specified mammalian farm animal.
  • Describe the linkage of gender with the expression of non-sex character traits, in a specified farm animal.
  • Explain the role of mutation in animal breeding, including both positive and negative aspects.
  • Explain the role of the environment in all factors which determine genetic expression in animals.
  • Explain the relevance of hybrid vigour to breeding different animals, including; *chickens *pigs *sheep
  • Explain heritability in different classes of livestock, including: * dairy cattle *beef cattle *pigs *sheep.
  • Develop a set of aims for a breeding program, for a chosen farm animal.
  • Develop a checklist of criteria for selecting animals in a breeding program for a specified type of farm animal.
  • Explain natural selection, by giving an example of its application in a farm animal breeding program.
  • Explain artificial selection in animal breeding programs, including: * it's aims *the methods used.
  • Explain genetic regression by giving an example of its possible occurrence in a farm breeding program.
  • Design a checklist of factors to consider when purchasing breeding stock for a specified farm situation.
  • Explain how an animal breeder in the learner's locality selects animals from which to breed, for a commercial breeding program.
  • Distinguish between different types of straight breeding, including: *close breeding *line breeding.
  • Explain how a specified pure breed (ie. straight breed) is maintained.
  • Compare the advantages and disadvantages of line breeding in a breeding program for a specified type of farm animal.
  • Explain where it would be appropriate to use line breeding methods in animal breeding programs.
  • Explain where it would be appropriate to use close breeding methods in animal breeding programs.
  • Write a procedure for straight breeding of a specified type of animal.
  • Differentiate between different types of cross breeding, including: *terminal cross *two breed cross *back cross *three breed cross *rotational cross.
  • Explain the concept of 'grading up', as it relates to commercial animal husbandry.
  • Evaluate 'crossbreeding' in an animal breeding program investigated by the learner, to determine its relevance to the situation.
  • Determine a commercial situation, in which crossbreeding may be justified.
  • Explain the services provided by a specified Breed Society in cross breeding, on a specified farm.
  • Write a procedure for cross breeding of a specified type of animal.
  • Define breeding terminology including: *artificial insemination *synchronised heats *ova transplants
  • Describe the breeding programs which use artificial insemination, synchronised heats and ova transplants.
  • Explain the importance of synchronised heats to breeding animals.
  • Describe two different testing methods, observed by the learner that are used for animal breeding programs,
  • Evaluate the relevance of breeding methods, that are used on a specified property, to the stated aims of the property owner.
  • Describe the husbandry procedures which may be carried out during the pregnancy of a specified farm animal.
  • Describe husbandry practices which may be carried out during the birth of a specified type of farm animal, including: *routine husbandry procedures *emergency husbandry procedures
  • Plan the management of a breeding program to maximise male breeding performance for either: *dairy *pigs *poultry *beef *sheep *horses
  • Perform and record the birth of a specified animal


Introduction to Animal breeding


When two pure bred animals containing these recessive genes are crossed, many of the undesirable genes from the parents are masked in the offspring and cannot affect the animal. The offspring grow better and are healthier and more productive than the parents. Furthermore, it is possible to produce a hybrid that has the best characteristics of both parents together with the added bonus of hybrid vigour - a widely used practice in agriculture. There are many examples of this as shown below:

Hybrid chickens These are usually crosses between a light breed and a heavy or medium breed, whereby the egg size and health of a heavy or medium breed is combined with the low food consumption of the light breed. The big onus is the extra number of eggs laid by the hybrids.

Hybrid pigs These are crosses between a heavy, prolific breed like the Large White and a leaner, lighter breed like the Landrace. The offspring from this cross are very good bacon pigs that grow well and grade for bacon - they are not too fat.

Sheep One of the best examples of a sheep hybrid is the Scotch Halfbreed sheep in the U.K. This is a cross between a Border Leicester ram and a Cheviot ewe. The Border Leicester is a large breed with a lot of poor quality wool while the Cheviot is a small hardy mountain breed with a small fleece of good quality wool. The Scotch Halfbreed combines the hardiness of the Cheviot with the meat of the Border Leicester and is a medium sized sheep with a good quality wool.

In South Africa, we find the Dorper sheep which is a cross between a Dorset Horn (a breed from U.K. which produces two crops of lamb a year) and the Black Head Persian (a hardy local breed with a very short wool and good drought-tolerant/resistant abilities). The Dorper is a fertile sheep with short wool which thrives under local conditions and is able to lamb twice a year.

Cattle Any cross between a beef bull (such as a Hereford or an Angus) and a dairy cow (such as a Friesian or Illawarra) produces an ideal animal which grows well and is its meat is not too fatty (marbled) for the butcher.


Domestic Animals

In recent years the cross-breeding of purebred domestic pets such as cats and dogs has grown in popularity. There has been some contention over the possibility of hybrid vigour when crossbreeding animals of the same species, however many now believe that it is evident in many crossbreeds.


Dogs Dogs have been cross-bred to combine specific traits or characteristics such as temperament, coat and reduced susceptibility to disease. One popular hybrid in recent years has been that of the Labrador Retriever with the Poodle to create the "Labradoodle". This hybrid was originally bred as a Guide Dog in 1989 to combine the low-shed coat of the poodle with the temperament of the Labrador Retriever, hence making them more suitable as guide dogs for allergy sufferers.

Cats In the past, cats have not been cross-bred to the extent which dogs have. In recent years, there has been greater demand for more exotic cats. Breeds such as the "Savannah Cat" have come into existence through this demand. This cat has been bred by crossbreeding an African Wild Cat, the Serval with a domestic cat. Although the breed may be highly prized by some, scientists are extremely concerned about the effects the hunting ability of this cat may have on native wildlife.

Crossbreeding has been carried out on many other breeds of domestic pets including rabbits, ferrets, rodents, fish, reptiles, and birds. There is often controversy surrounding crossbreeding, especially for pets in competitions and those used to sire litters. Some believe that genetic problems might be introduced in the form of recessive genes, not immediately obvious to breeders, but which may appear in subsequent generations.



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Phone (UK) 01384 44272, (International) +44 (0) 1384 442752, or

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