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Ponta Delgada ,  September 13, 2019

Ramo Grande cattle breed, native to the Azores, is the first to apply genomic selection nationwide

The Regional Director for Agriculture revealed that the Ramo Grande cattle breed, native to the Azores, is a pioneer in the application of genomic selection nationwide, an extremely important step to preserve the future of a genetic heritage with unparalleled historical, social and cultural importance.
“This major step that is now being taken is intended to achieve more promising results in the Ramo Grande breed selection programme. It stems from the collaboration of several years of study and the coordination between the Regional Directorate for Agriculture and the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Lisbon,” stated José Élio Ventura.
The Ramo Grande breed has its own Record Book since 1996 and the first genetic evaluations were published from 2015.
The genomic selection harnesses the potential of the pedigree and productive information collected over decades on this breed by adding a missing piece: a panel of genetic markers that further guarantee the genetic merit of animal specimens for the traits to be select.
The panel of genetic markers used will not only contribute to a more rigorous selection, but also to a selection of animals at an earlier age based on their genetic profile.
“The experience of dairy cattle shows that genetic progress can be up to 50% higher than conventional selection, with a more controlled inbreeding evolution,” said José Élio Ventura.
In the case of Ramo Grande, the main breeding bulls were analysed in this first stage, using a commercial panel of genetic markers that covered the entire genome. The information collected is then incorporated into the statistical analysis in which the genomic value of all animals is estimated.
The catalogue containing the first results of this genomic evaluation is already available for the main bulls on the Ramo Grande race webpage at It translates the results of an effort that incorporates pedigree, productive and genomic information into a joint analysis.
This study was carried out under the technical scientific coordination of Luís Telo da Gama, professor at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Lisbon with a PhD in Animal Genetics from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, United States of America.
José Élio Ventura stated that the genotyping of a larger number of animals is planned for the near future as well as the collection of further productive and pedigree information. The aim is to turn genomic selection into a management tool that can help Ramo Grande cattle breeders improving their production systems and enhancing the value creation potential of their animals, always safeguarding animal biodiversity in a context of sustainable rural development.
The Ramo Grande breed is currently the only native cattle breed in the Autonomous Region of the Azores, dating back to the beginning of the settlement of the archipelago in the 15th century, when the first cattle specimens from different regions of Mainland Portugal were introduced.
The isolation of the islands, the climate and the environmental conditions have led the cattle to acquire their own specificities, giving rise to the Ramo Grande breed.
Currently, 1,407 bovines are registered in the Record Book of Adult Animals for this breed, distributed by the islands of Terceira, São Jorge, Faial, Pico, São Miguel and Graciosa, and there are 261 Ramo Grande breeders in the Azores.
In Portugal, 15 cattle breeds are officially recognised as indigenous, including the Ramo Grande breed.


Official government press-releases presented in all foreign languages interfaces of the Azorean Government Portal (Portal do Governo dos Açores) are a sub-set of the government's official press-releases daily output and are chosen for translation and publication on the foreign language interfaces based on audience segmentation criteria. The entire collection of the Azorean government press-releases is available in portuguese, here, from the GACS Press Office site.

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