BACKGROUND: Average daily gain (ADG) in pigs is affected by both direct and social genetic effects (SGE). However, selection for SGE in purebreds has not conclusively been shown to improve ADG in crossbreds, and it is unknown whether SGE in purebreds are equal to those in crossbreds. Moreover, SGE may reflect dominance related behaviour, which is affected by the variation in body weight within a group. Therefore, we hypothesized that (a) there is a positive effect of parent average SGE estimated in purebred pigs on phenotypic ADG in crossbred offspring, and (b) there is an interaction between SGE on ADG and standard deviation in starting weight of pigs within the group. We also hypothesized that (c) social genetic variance for ADG exists in crossbred pigs, and (d) there is a favourable genetic correlation between SGE on ADG in purebred and crossbred pigs.
RESULTS: We found a statistically significant interaction between the standard deviation in starting weight and SGE within groups, and conditioning on the mean standard deviation in starting weight, we found a favourable regression coefficient (0.37 ± 0.21) of ADG in crossbreds on SGE in purebreds. Variances for SGE were small in both Landrace (L) and Yorkshire (Y), and higher for SGE in both the dam and sire component of crossbred YL. The genetic correlations between SGE in purebreds and the dam or sire component of SGE in crossbreds were also favourable (0.52 ± 0.48 and 0.34 ± 0.42, respectively), although not significantly different from 0.
CONCLUSIONS: We confirmed that there is a positive effect of SGE estimated using purebred information on phenotypic ADG in crossbreds, and that the largest effect is achieved when the within-group variation in starting weight is small. Our results indicate that social genetic variance in crossbreds exists and that there is a favourable genetic correlation between social genetic effects in purebreds and crossbreds. Collectively, our results indicate that selection for SGE on ADG in purebreds in a nucleus farm environment with little competition for resources can improve ADG in crossbreds in a commercial environment.