Give more rein?

‘In the past few months there have been ample discussions about the course of the Studbook for the next five years. First during the four discussion evenings in various parts of the Netherlands, then in the regional meetings and finally it was hammered down at the Meeting of the Member Council’, KFPS Director Ids Hellinga begins in his column of the July Phryso.

‘Not surprisingly, these discussions were dominated by breeding-related subjects. How can we create a better connection between breeding and sport; how can we make sure breeding in itself remains interesting, also for young breeders; what are the aspects that should be emphasised in breeding goal and selection policy. These are just a few of the leading topics that play a prominent role in the strategy document, which is the basis for the policy of the next five years.

A remarkable outcome of these discussions was the members’ opinion that policy regarding inbreeding should no longer be a top priority in the selection process. I’m pretty sure the consensus would have been altogether different if this question had been on the table fifteen years ago. We have certainly achieved a lot of progress since that time. We have managed to reduce the inbreeding increase per generation, which is the principal indicator, to a safe zone. Mapping out the inbreeding problem by means of a transparent numerical index such as the introduction of the kinship percentage, has worked out. Apparently this has all helped to tone down the feeling of urgency.

The question now is whether it is justified to give more rein in terms of breeding. I don’t think so. Inbreeding always has to be a top priority in any closed population. There’s another reason why controlling inbreeding is important. Inbreeding is more than just statistics. In the discussions the members gave the highest priority to health and vitality but they should also realise that the reduction of inbreeding is a key precondition for these two aspects too. In other words, selection for health and vitality without bothering about inbreeding is like mopping the floor with the tap still running. Which is reason for the KFPS to give new impetus to the inbreeding policy, for example by way of the newly announced total index. For let’s get this straight: letting go of the reins when it comes to curbing inbreeding cannot be allowed at any time!’