Breeding Animals

Course CodeBAG301
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Learn to Breed Livestock

Learn to plan implementation of an animal breeding program using

  • genetic theory,
  • practical applications to daily husbandry practice, and
  • management of animal breeding programs.

Topics covered include:

  • introduction to genetics
  • selection
  • pure breeding
  • introduction to cross breeding
  • cross breeding
  • livestock improvement.

The course -

  • Provides a sound introduction to genetics
  • Is relevant to any type of animal (pets, farm animals, wildlife, horses, dogs, etc)
  • Includes personal guidance from highly qualified and experienced animal scientists and practitioners.

ACS Student comment

 Yes [the course is a valuable learning experience], I am loving it, it relates to all the things I am presently doing with our dogs and sheep and I am finding it extremely useful and have learnt a lot. Love getting my assignments back to see how I went always an exciting moment and then shared around the dinner table that night!!

Zoe Crouch, Animal Breeding course.

Lesson Structure

There are 7 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction To Genetics
  2. Genetics
  3. Selection
  4. Pure Breeding
  5. Introduction To Cross Breeding
  6. Cross Breeding
  7. Livestock Improvement


  • 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

What You Will Do

  • 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.

Controlled Breeding for Animals that are Fit for Purpose

Selective breeding in farm animals is centered around identifying the most desirable characteristics and breeding from those animals that display them.
When selecting animals for breeding it is important to be aware of the desirable features or traits that are being selected for. 
Traits essentially fit into five basic categories
  1. Fitness traits: these are usually linked to reproduction such as litter size, conception rate, gestation length, survival rates of young
  2. Production traits: these include milk yield, growth rate, feed efficiency, number of eggs
  3. Quality traits: these include carcass composition, level of fat, meat and milk quality.
  4. Type traits: these include physical appearance such as coat colour, udder shape, number of teats in pigs.
  5. Behavioural traits: these include herding ability in sheep dogs, temperament, mothering ability.
When deciding on a breeding programme it is important to focus on just one or two traits as if too many are included, progress will be very slow. The importance placed upon a trait should depend on its economic value so in general it has been the production traits that have been the focus of most livestock breeding programmes. Most of these traits are controlled by many genes (polygenic) so is not as easy to predict as the monogenic traits such as coat colour.  It is also important to recognise that some genes are more likely to be expressed in the offspring than others, a concept known as heritability. Heritability expresses the part of the superiority of the parents which, on average, is passed on to the offspring. It is expressed either as a percentage (0-100%) or as a proportion (0.0 – 1.0).
Production traits such as fat depth and growth rates tend to have a high heritability, whereas reproductive traits are usually lower.
Farm animal breeding has also made use hybrid vigour or heterosis. This can occur when two different breeds are crossed and the performance of the progeny exceeds that of the two parents. Crossbreeding is widely practiced in animal and poultry breeding to improve performance and to fix certain desirable traits.

Pet Breeding

Whereas the main objective of a farm animal breeding programme is to improve performance, breeding programmes for pedigree cats and dogs and other pet animals has centered on how they the phenotype. This has led to the development of over 1700 different dog breeds throughout the world. Pedigree dog breeding is big business and can generate significant amounts of money for the breeder.
In more recent years it has come under heavy criticism as one of the consequences of breeding for specific traits that effect appearance is that other genes may also be selected  that are detrimental to the dogs health and welfare. 
Some breeds (e.g. pugs and King Charles Spaniels) were being breed with such shortened noses that they were having breathing problems. In 2008 an investigation into Pedigree dog breeding resulted in an independent enquiry in the UK and changes in the way many dogs are now. There is now also a register of all the potential genetic diseases that dogs may get and strict guidelines with regard to breeding from animals that may carry potential harmful genes.

The Technique of Artificial Insemination

There are two main parts to Artificial Insemination, namely:

  • collecting, diluting, freezing and packing the semen from the bull; and
  • thawing out and injecting the semen into the cow at the right time for conception.

With each ejaculation, a normal bull produces 7 - 10 millilitres of semen. Each millilitre contains one to one and half thousand million healthy sperm. After collection, the semen is diluted to five times the original volume using a solution called an extender. A typical extender consists of egg yolk, sodium citrate, antibiotics, dextrose and glycerol.

The diluted semen is packed into long, thin containers called straws. Each straw contains enough semen for one insemination. Every straw is labelled with the name and number of the bull and the date of packing. The straws are then deep frozen and stored in liquid nitrogen at a temperature of -142°C or in liquid nitrogen vapour at a temperature of -125°C. Although semen will freeze at any temperature below 0°C, it is safe from injury only when it is below - 40°C. to - 65°C. Freezing of sperm in N(l) also allows sperm to remain viable for 20 years or more after collection.

As the temperature rises above the safe zone, ice crystals in the semen will enlarge and move, causing damage to the sperm and reducing their viability. Once a straw has been thawed out it must be used at once or thrown away. Each straw contains 0.5ml or diluted semen. By using deep frozen semen, one bull can produce enough semen to inseminate 30 000 to 40 000 cows a year. Using natural service, one bull might serve 50 cows a year.

The semen is thawed out and deposited into the uterus of the cow using a special instrument consisting of a long plunger and a long, thin plastic tube. A cow is inseminated when she is ‘on heat’. The plastic tube must be passed through the cervix and the semen placed into the uterus so that it is available to fertilise the egg after ovulation has taken place. Insemination is a skilled process and should be carried out only by a trained operator. A good inseminator should achieve an 80% conception rate.

Why Study This Course?

This course -

  • provides you with a detailed insight into animal breeding
  • can be studied online or by e-learning
  • can be studied at a time and location to suit you
  • is self-paced, so you work at a pace to suit you
  • includes support from industry experts and highly qualified tutors
  • can be started at any time to fit in with you and your schedule

The course is useful for anyone wanting to understanding more about the theory and techniques involved in animal breeding.

Any Questions?

Click here to ask a question.

Request a Handbook here.

Check out our eBooks

It's Easy to Enrol

Select a Learning Method


$461.00Payment plans available.

Courses can be started at any time from anywhere in the world!

Need Help?

Take advantage of our personalised, expert course counselling service to ensure you're making the best course choices for your situation.