A collaboration between Aarhus University and the Danish Pig Research Centre uses a multipronged approach in the efforts to improve pig behaviour. The purpose is to breed pigs that are less inclined to bite tails and that utilise the feed more efficiently. One of the approaches is a ground-breaking combination of sophisticated statistical models, indicator traits and genomic information about the pig’s pen mates.
Results from the project will not only improve pig welfare as a result of less tail-biting, but will also be beneficial for the environment. A more efficient use of feed will result in reduced emissions of nutrients and CO2 to the environment. "We expect to see a reduction in emissions of 335 tonnes of nitrogen, 56 tonnes of phosphorus and 14.5 tonnes of CO2 for the entire production of finishers, which is based on a production of 19.0 million finishers in 2013," says Senior Researcher Ole Fredslund Christensen from the Center for Quantitative Genetics and Genomics in the Department of Molecular Biology, Aarhus University.
Both feed efficiency and social behaviour are complex traits to include in breeding programmes, since the properties are difficult to measure. The scientists will therefore include entirely new method combinations. By combining new methods for processing group information with genomic information, the scientists expect to be able to use their combined potential to increase genetic progress for these traits.
The group information will be used in two ways that are complementary. Firstly, data on feed consumption at group level will be used, which is a cost-effective way of improving the certainty in the breeding value assessments. Secondly, they will use the observations on pen mates to assess the pigs' social breeding values.
Wednesday March 11, 2015/ Danish Pig Research Centre/ Denmark.