Selection for productivity and robustness traits in pigs

S. Hermesch, L. Li, A. B. Doeschl-Wilson, H. Gilbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Pig breeding programs worldwide continue to focus on both productivity and robustness. This selection emphasis has to be accompanied by provision of better-quality environments to pigs to improve performance and to enhance health and welfare of pigs. Definition of broader breeding objectives that include robustness traits in addition to production traits is the first step in the development of selection strategies for productivity and robustness. An approach has been presented which facilitates extension of breeding objectives. Post-weaning survival, maternal genetic effects for growth as an indicator of health status and sow mature weight are examples of robustness traits. Further, breeding objectives should be defined for commercial environments and selection indexes should account for genotype by environment interactions (GxE). Average performances of groups of pigs have been used to quantify the additive effects of multiple environmental factors on performance of pigs. For growth, GxE existed when environments differed by 60 g/day between groups of pigs. This environmental variation was observed even on well managed farms. Selection for improved health of pigs should focus on disease resistance to indirectly reduce pathogen loads on farms and on disease resilience to improve the ability of pigs to cope with infection challenges. Traits defining disease resilience may be based on performance and immune measures, disease incidence or survival rates of pigs. Residual feed intake is a trait that quantifies feed efficiency. The responses of divergent selection lines for residual feed intake to various environmental challenges were often similar or even favourable for the more efficient, low residual feed intake line. These somewhat unexpected results highlight the need to gain a better understanding of the metabolic differences between more or less productive pigs. These physiological differences lead to interactions between the genetic potential of pigs for productivity and robustness and the prevalence of specific environmental conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1437-1447
Number of pages11
JournalAnimal Production Science
Issue number11-12
Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2015

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • breeding objective disease resilience environmental variation genotype by environment interactions residual feed intake residual feed-intake respiratory syndrome nematode infections growth-performance genetic-parameters economic weights carcass traits growing pigs resistance environment


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