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Knowledge Centre – NordGen Farm Animals

The genetic diversity that our Nordic native farm animal breeds carry is invaluable. Over hundreds of years, they have developed desirable traits that make them robust and well adapted to the Nordic climate and way of life. Native breeds have a wider genetic base than commercial breeds and great potential for future food production in a sustainable way. For example, research shows that milk from Nordic native cattle breeds is among the best in the world when it comes to cheesemaking, and also contain valuable nutrients that could be used to develop bioactive food components. If further investigated, the genetic diversity of the native breeds can help adapt the Nordic agriculture to the needs of the market, climate change and new production systems. However, many of the about 140 farm animal breeds native to the Nordic countries are today at risk of becoming endangered. NordGen Farm Animals is working to reverse that trend. 

Key Activities

During 2021, NordGen Farm Animals has worked in several projects, networks and increased communications on its activities and established several networks that serve as a platform for discussing joint research applications and projects. The increased communication and knowledge sharing with stakeholders supports the current strategic goal to proactively strengthen NordGen as a Nordic knowledge center for genetic resources. 

Cryoconservation Manual

An important receipt on the successful revitalization process is the fact that FAO has asked NordGen Farm Animals to co-coordinate and contribute to an updated version of their cryopreservation guidelines.
NordGen gathered the results from each work package in the EU-project “Innovative Management of Animal Genetic resources” (IMAGE) and processed the material as recommendations. In 2021, the FAO cryopreservation guidelines was finalized and NordGen Farm Animals continued working on a webinar series based on the FAO guidelines that will be arranged in 2022.

Breed Stories

In 2021, NordGen Farm Animals continued the ambitious task of creating portraits of all the Nordic native animal breeds. The portraits contain information about each breed and its current status and are being written with support from the different breeding organisations in the Nordic countries. As we have some 140 different animal breeds this is a time-consuming and resource demanding project, but it fills a void and constitute information asked for as there is no other place where information about our Nordic native animal breeds can be found all in one place. During 2021, 15 breed stories was published on NordGen's website, 8 cattle breeds and 7 horse breeds from all Nordic countries.


Mountain Cattle Project

Much of NordGen Farm Animal’s resources in 2021 were devoted to work in the project “Nordic Mountain Cattle – Cultural heritage and Genetics” (3MC). The project utilizes an innovative approach for combining several academic disciplines to give us a more nuanced picture of the history, culture and heritage of the mountain cattle breeds in the northern parts of Finland, Norway and Sweden. For example, the 3MC-team worked on preparing a museum exhibition for display in 2022 and paper was published in the journal Animal. In this study a questionnaire was sent to all registered keepers of native breeds in Finland. This survey clarified their reasons for keeping native breeds and their ideas for improving governance structures and practices. The results show that genetic and cultural values are recognised in several documents and programmes, but farmers need to be engaged more in the design of support schemes and practices. The project is co- funded by Interreg Nord, Lapin liitto and Region Norrbotten and running 2020-2022. Read more in Projects.

NordFrost Network and New Horse Project Funded

In 2021, The NordFrost Network was started with two seminars. The network includes a broad group of stakeholders enabling people from different backgrounds to meet, share experiences and create joint efforts to the conservation of native farm animal and fish breeds. This will contribute to Nordic food security and self-sufficiency, as well as conserving the unique biodiversity of the numerous native breeds found in the Nordic region. Read more in Projects.
New funding was also granted for the horse project: “Genomic Characterization as a Tool Towards Sustainable Breeding of the Nordic Native Horse Breeds”. This project will be running 2022-2024 and is in collaboration with SLU, NMBU and the Norwegian Horse Center.
Photo: Alma Rackauskaite
Photo: Suvi Tiainen
NordGen Farm Animals is a service and knowledge centre working to conserve and promote sustainable management of the animal genetic resources in the Nordic region.  Contributing to the Nordic countries’ own work by promoting the genetic, economic, cultural, historical and social values that come with a wide variety of different animals in Nordic agriculture.
NordGen Farm Animals’ activities are providing tools and advice to preserve the genetic variation in living populations (in situ) but also to establish cryo-storage of genetic material (ex situ). Through a variety of projects, NordGen Farm Animals are working to initiate research and development projects related to categorization, conservation, management and sustainable use of animal genetic resources.
NordGen Farm Animals also organizes workshops, seminars and courses for various Nordic stakeholders and promotes good collaboration between them. Actively distributes information about animal genetic resources and partake in international networks. Works to promote sustainable breeding practices and good principles for fair trade in animal genetic material.