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Indirect genetic effects for growth rate in domestic pigs alter aggressive and manipulative biting behaviour

The results of this study show opportunities to reduce harmful biting behaviours in pigs.

Tuesday 4 September 2018 (6 months 15 days ago)
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Indirect genetic effects (IGEs) are heritable effects of an individual on phenotypic values of others, and may result from social interactions. We determined the behavioural consequences of selection for IGEs for growth (IGEg) in pigs in a genotype-environment (G × E) treatment design. Pigs (n = 480) were selected for high versus low IGEg with a contrast of 14 g average daily gain and were housed in either barren or straw-enriched pens (n = 80).

High IGEg pigs showed from 8 to 23 weeks age 40 % less aggressive biting (P = 0.006), 27 % less ear biting (P = 0.03), and 40 % less biting on enrichment material (P = 0.005). High IGEg pigs had a lower tail damage score (high 2.0; low 2.2; P = 0.004), and consumed 30 % less jute sacks (P = 0.002). Selection on high IGEg reduced biting behaviours additive to the, generally much larger, effects of straw-bedding (P < 0.01), with no G × E interactions.

These results show opportunities to reduce harmful biting behaviours in pigs.

Irene Camerlink, Winanda W. Ursinus, Piter Bijma, Bas Kemp, J. Elizabeth Bolhuis. Indirect genetic effects for growth rate in domestic pigs alter aggressive and manipulative biting behaviour. 2015. Behavior Genetics 45: 117–126.

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