Pedigree and herd characterization of a donkey breed vulnerable to extinction

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Most donkey and local horse breeds are vulnerable to extinction as mechanization of agriculture progress throughout the world. The present study analyzed the pedigree and herd records of the donkey Asinina de Miranda breed (RAM), identifying genealogical and human factors that may affect the breed genetic diversity in the future and suggesting suitable strategies to breed preservation, early on the conservation program. The breeding rate was very low, with a ratio of foaling/live animals of 0.23 (178/760). The estimated number of founders and ancestors contributing to the reference population was 128 and 121. The number of founder herds in the reference population was 64, with an effective number of founder herds for the reference population of 7.6. The mean age of herd owners was 65.50±0.884 years, with a negative association among the herd size and owner’s age (P<0.001). In contrast, the size of the herd and the ownership of a male were both positively associated (P<0.001) with the herd number of in-born foals. Both the owners’ age and the herd location (RAM home region v. dispersal region) were negatively associated with the foaling number (P<0.001). The main identified risk factors were: low breeding rates; low number of males and their unequal contribution to the genetic pool; unequal contribution of the herds to genetic pool; and advanced age of herd owners.