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Wageningen University

Genetic Models for Animal Breeding

Wageningen University via edX


Animal breeding involves the selective breeding of domestic animals with the intention to improve desirable (and heritable) qualities in the next generation. This course introduces the steps required to design a program for breeding animals and teaches the genetic and statistical concepts that are needed to build a solid breeding program.

In this course you will learn how an animal breeder balances the need for improving desirable qualities of the animals with the need for genetic diversity and long sustainability of the program. The scientific concepts in genetics that are applied in animal breeding will be explained and you will learn to apply the models and computational methods that are used in animal breeding.

Knowledge in the area of statistics at 2nd or 3rd year university level is needed to follow this course successfully.

For whom
Professionals working with animals will use the knowledge from this course to understand the impact of breeding on their populations, and will be able to include the genetic principles in their decisions. For further studies such as M.Sc. level courses in breeding and genetics, this course will allow you an advanced starting point.

Although this course is open to everyone, it is particular useful for breeders of:

  • Cows
  • Poultry/Chicken
  • Horses
  • Pigs/Swine
  • Dogs
  • Sheep
  • Goat
  • Fish
  • Shrimp

Professional Certificate Program
This course is part of the Professional Certificate Program "Animal Breeding and Genetics". Join the other course in the program, Evaluating Animal Breeding Programs, and advance your career as a breeder.

The course is developed with financial support and input from the Koepon Foundation and the African Chicken Genetic Gains project.


Module1: Introduction to Animal Breeding
Introduction to the seven steps that are needed to set up a breeding program.

Module 2: The breeding goal

Learning the characteristics of a breeding goal and how to define a breeding goal for genetic improvement and for genetic diversity.

Module 3: Collection of information and family relationships
Learning the value of information on relationships, performance, and DNA information, including the concept and consequences of inbreeding. Learning methods to quantify relationships and inbreeding.

Module 4: Genetic models
Learning the concept of genetic models and to apply suitable genetic models for different traits. Learning the genetic concepts of heritability, repeatability, common environment ratio and mendelian sampling.

Module 5: Ranking the animals
Learning to estimate the breeding value of animals, using single or multiple sources of information, including DNA information. Learning to calculate the accuracy of estimated breeding values.

Module 6: Response to selection
Learning to calculate the response to selection and knowing its key elements and consequences of trade-offs between them. To understand mating schemes and long term contributions to inbreeding.

Taught by

Hans Komen , Han Mulder , Henk Bovenhuis , Piter Bijma , John Bastiaansen and Mario Calus


4.0 rating, based on 1 Class Central review

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  • Anonymous
    Completed this course as a verified student and found it extremely useful. I did not have a background in biology so the initial part of the course in particular required some additional external study to understand the terms and jargon used. I would...

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