Genetic associations between behavioral traits and direct-social effects of growth rate in pigs

L Canario, SP Turner, R Roehe, N Lundeheim, RB D'Eath, AB Lawrence, E Knol, R Bergsma, L Rydhmer

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27 Citations (Scopus)


This study examined the behavioral consequences of selecting pigs using a social genetic model for growth. Calculations enable each member of a group of pigs to be given a direct breeding value (DBV) and a social breeding value (SBV), which can be summarized into a total breeding value (TBV) for growth. Selection for growth TBV could affect animal behavior because social effects account for within-group interactions. Data were recorded from 96 groups of Yorkshire and Yorkshire × Landrace pigs in a nucleus herd. Each group contained 15 pigs fed ad libitum from 2 feeders; the space allowance was 0.85 m²/pig. Average daily gain was quantifi ed from 35 to 100 kg of BW. Fighting and bullying activity at mixing (period 1), lying frequency 3 wk after mixing (period 2), and counts of skin lesions in periods 1 and 2 were recorded. The DBV for these traits were estimated with a classic animal model. We simulated different correlations between the direct genetic effect and the social genetic effect on growth rate (rDS), 2 components that respectively determine a pig’s genetic capacity to grow and its genetic infl uence on growth of group mates: rDS was successively assumed to be 0 and ±0.12, ±0.20, ±0.29, and ±0.58. Finally, the correlations between DBV, SBV, and TBV for ADG, as well as the DBV for behavior and skin lesions, were calculated and tested for a level of signifi cance at P < 0.05. The gradient from negative to positive values of rDS refers to a progressive path running from genetic antagonism to genetic mutualism for growth. If rDS in the population truly ranged between −0.58 and −0.20, correlations for TBV for ADG with DBV for fi ghting and bullying progressively increased with rDS. Consequently, if rDS was low (between −0.12 and +0.12) or positive (>+0.12), pigs with high TBV for ADG had higher DBV for bullying other pigs in the group and for fi ghting than pigs with lower TBV for ADG. Pigs with high TBV for ADG did not differ from other pigs in their DBV for lesions to the anterior part of the body, but they had a lower DBV for posterior lesions, whereas in period 2, they had higher DBV for posterior lesions and lower DBV for lying. Under genetic mutualism for growth and in housing conditions similar to those in the present study, selection for growth TBV would promote the rapid establishment of the dominance relationships, with more aggressive contests among group mates at mixing. Pigs would subsequently be more active but, judging by skin lesions, less willing to fi ght in a more stable social situation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4706 - 4715
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number13
Publication statusFirst published - 2012

Bibliographical note



  • Activity
  • Aggressiveness
  • Pig
  • Skin lesions
  • Social interactions
  • Social model


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