Farm animal genetic resources

Farm animal genetic resources in Norway include all farm animals used for breeding — whether they're the stray cat that has kittens in the backyard, the purebred dog that's inseminated with imported semen, the Dole horse mare that spends the summer in Sikkilsdalen, the ewe that mates with the prize ram, or the cow inseminated with elite semen. The production breeds owned by the breeding companies Geno, Norsvin and Norwegian Sheep and Goat Association are important genetic resources internationally, while endangered breeds native to Norway receive the most attention from national conservation programs in Norway.

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Photo: Anna Holene / Norsk genressurssenter / NIBIO

The traits of plants and animals are determined by their heritage and environment. Inherited traits are determined by genes contained within their DNA.

- Genetic variation refers to the differences in DNA/genes between individuals and/or populations, and is a prerequisite for both evolution and the refinement and development of new varieties and breeds. Genetic variation is an important part of biological diversity.

- Genetic resources can be defined as biological materials with genetic variation or genetic traits that could be significant for development and targeted use. Seeds, plants, sperm, and animals are examples of genetic resources.

The loss of farm animal genetic resources is a threat to food security nationally and globally. Using a small group of high-performing breeds for food production risks the loss of breed diversity and the genetic security it represents. All of Norway's native farm-animal breeds have an important role in conserving the breed diversity of farm animals globally.

Management of native farm animal genetic resources

Through its endorsement of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Norway has committed to the sustainable management of its biological diversity, including farm animal genetic resources. The Norwegian Genetic Resource Centre has an overarching responsibility for breeds native to Norway, and a particular responsibility for monitoring and supporting the endangered and critically endangered native breeds. The commercial breeding organizations Geno, Norsvin and Norwegian Sheep and Goat Association are responsible for the breeding programs for their respective non-endangered national breeds. These breeds are not included in the national conservation program.  Norwegian Horse Association and the native horse breeding organizations are responsible for the conservation of their respective breeds.

The Norwegian Genetic Resource Centre develops, and is responsible for, the review of the national action plan for farm animal genetic resources.

Norwegian breeding

Norwegian breeding is primarily organized by cooperative enterprises, and is characterized by broad breeding targets for mixed breeds and a high level of adherence from active farmers.

In all breeding controlled by humans, it is vital that knowledge, planning, and execution ensure sustainable breeding. This means the animals' desired traits are improved (their production and exteriors), while avoiding inbreeding.



This is the story of the local Norwegian cattle breeds that no longer are categorized as critically endangered. A pedigree database adjusted to the breeds’ needs and close cooperation between farmers, breeding organisations and public authorities are key elements in this success story.


The Norwegian Genetic Resource Centre estimated the inbreeding rate and thereby the effective population size for all of Norway’s cattle breeds at risk, using the method by Gutierrez et al 2008. When the conservation efforts began in 1990, these breeds were very small in number. However, the current population status shows that the breeds have been wisely managed.

To document


The aim of this study was to evaluate genetic diversity within and between lines at the Norwegian live poultry gene bank as well as assessing the conservation value in an international context. Eight lines including the national breed, Jærhøns, were genotyped with the 600K Affymetrix® Axiom® Chicken Genotyping Array. The white egg layers were generally more inbred than the brown layers. Comparative analyses were carried out with 72 international populations of different origins. The lines that were last bred for commercial production in Norway, Norbrid, are clearly separated from the rest of the international set and more closely related to the current commercial lines. The brown egg layer Norbrid 7 has the highest relative contribution to genetic diversity. The Norwegian genebank lines are of conservation value in a national and international perspective, as they all add genetic diversity to the global set.


This report presents all livestock production systems in Norway that significantly contribute to the country’s food and agricultural production. It describes the regulatory framework for Norwegian agriculture and aquaculture, as well as characteristics of the country’s production conditions and breeding work. The report discusses national expertise in the field of farm animal genetic resources and future developments regarding the country’s use of these resources. Furthermore, the report presents the conservation of Norway’s historical breeds with small populations. It concludes by making recommendations on which areas both Norway and the Nordic countries should emphasize regarding R&D activities and capacity building..... Genetic resource centre.