Two boars known for their superior offspring have been used to produce agriculture’s first clones of adult pigs.

Infigen Inc., and its agriculture affiliate, Genmark, announced that clones of a Yorkshire boar called "The Man" were born Jan. 14. Clones of a Hampshire boar called "401K," now deceased, were farrowed Dec. 25, Jan. 6 and Jan. 14.

The DeForest, WI, company reports all of the clones are healthy and vigorous. Both donor boars are owned by Prairie State Semen Inc., Champaign, IL.

"Infigen’s cloning of these two boars is a novel extension of our primary mission: providing superb genetics to our customers worldwide," says Jon Fisher, owner of Prairie State Semen. "Their and our success with these newly born clones will have a substantial impact throughout the swine industry by allowing improvements in breeding, evaluation and selection techniques."

"The Man" was champion Yorkshire boar at the 2000 Indiana State Fair. Infigen used three nuclear transfers (transferring a somatic cell nucleus into an oocyte that has had its nucleus removed) from the cell line created from a donor tissue sample.

Prairie State Semen purchased "401K" in 1997. Three nuclear transfers were also completed from 401K’s cell line, resulting in three pregnancies.

In the process known as nuclear transfer, oocytes are extracted from ovaries and allowed to mature. Then, the nucleus is removed from each oocyte. Next, cells are cultured from the tissue sample of the donor animal and inserted into the oocyte. Electrofusion is used to join the oocyte and the donor cell. The oocyte is activated and begins to divide, developing into an embryo. The embryo is placed into a host mother using standard embryo transfer techniques. Following a normal gestation period, she delivers the clone.

According to Infigen, the process known as Agricloning is commercially available to all pork producers who want to preserve the traits of animals of high genetic merit. By using this service, a tissue sample of an animal can be used to create a clone to carry on the genetic line.

The cloning technology can also be valuable to producers as a means to broaden their genetic base. By creating a clone a few generations after the original animal has become incapable of producing, it is possible to make matings with those exact genetics that otherwise would have been unavailable.

"Agricloning is a highly efficient approach, and now a proven platform, for propagating animals of high genetic merit," says Michael Bishop, president and chief scientific officer of Infigen.

"This milestone underscores the commercial viability of our Agricloning Nuclear Transfer technologies for the commercial swine industries," he says.

Partner Prairie State Semen sells semen from eight breeds and exotic pigs and ships semen to 49 states and several foreign countries. Producers interested in cloning their animals can contact the firm at (888) WE CLONE (932-5663).

For further information on Infigen, Genmark or Prairie State Semen visit their Web sites.