Selection for social genetic effects in purebred pigs improves behaviour and handling of their crossbred progeny

Bjarne Nielsen*, Lizette Vestergaard Horndrup, SP Turner, Ole Fredslund Christensen, Hanne Marie Nielsen, Birgitte Ask

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background: In commercial pig production, reduction of harmful social behavioural traits, such as ear manipulation and tail biting, is of major interest. Moreover, farmers prefer animals that are easy to handle. The aim of this experiment was to determine whether selection on social breeding values (SBV) for growth rate in purebred pigs affects behaviour in a weighing crate, lesions from ear manipulation, and tail biting of their crossbred progeny. Data were collected on crossbred F1 pigs allocated to 274 pens, which were progeny of purebred Landrace sows and Yorkshire boars from a DanBred nucleus herd. Results: Behaviour in the weighing crate scored on a three-level scale showed that groups of pigs with high SBV for growth rate were significantly calmer than groups of pigs with low SBV (P < 0.027). When the mean SBV in the group increased by 1 unit, the proportion of pigs that obtained a calmer score level was increased by 14%. A significant (p = 0.04), favourable effect of SBV was found on both the number of pigs with ear lesions in the group and the mean number of ear lesions per pig. For a 1 unit increase in mean SBV, the mean number of lesions per pig decreased by 0.06 from a mean of 0.98. Individual severity of ear lesions conditional upon the number of ear lesions was also significantly affected (p = 0.05) by the mean SBV in the group. In groups for which the mean SBV increased by 1 unit, the proportion of pigs that were observed with a lower severity score was increased by 20% on a three-level scale. Most pigs received no tail biting injuries and no effect of SBV was observed on the tail injury score. Conclusions: After 7 weeks in the finisher unit, crossbred progeny with high SBV were calmer in the weighing crate and had fewer ear lesions. These results indicate that selection of purebred parents for SBV for growth rate will increase welfare in their crossbred progeny by decreasing the number of ear lesions and making them easier to handle.

Original languageEnglish
Article number54
JournalGenetics Selection Evolution
Early online date25 Jul 2023
Publication statusFirst published - 25 Jul 2023


  • Behavior, Animal
  • Animals
  • Tail/injuries
  • Swine/genetics
  • Female
  • Male
  • Bites and Stings


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