Genetic associations between maternal traits and aggressive behaviour in Large White sows
Appel A K
König von Borstel U
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The present study examined the possibilities and consequences of selecting pigs for reduced aggression and desirable maternal behaviour. Data were recorded from 798 purebred Large White gilts, with an age of 217±17.7 (mean±SD) days, which were observed at mixing with unfamiliar conspecifics. The reaction of the sows towards separation from their litter was assessed for 2022 litters from 848 Large White sows. Sows' performance during their time in the farrowing unit was scored based on the traits farrowing behaviour (i.e. need of birth assistance), rearing performance (i.e. litter quality at day 10 postpartum (pp)), usability (i.e. additional labour input during lactation period e.g. for treatments) and udder quality of the sow (i.e. udder attachment). For agonistic behaviour, traits heritabilities of h 2=0.11±0.04 to h 2=0.28±0.06 were estimated. For the sow's reaction towards separation from her litter low heritabilities were found (h 2=0.03±0.03 for separation test on day 1 pp and h 2=0.02±0.03 for separation test on day 10 pp). Heritabilities for lactating sow's performance (farrowing behaviour, rearing performance, usability of the sow and udder quality) in the farrowing unit ranged from h 2=0.03±0.02 to h 2=0.19±0.03. Due to these results it can be assumed that selection for these traits, for example, for udder quality or reduced aggression, is possible. Antagonistic associations were found between separation test on day 1 pp and different measures of aggressiveness (r g=-0.22±0.26 aggressive attack and r g=-0.41±0.33 reciprocal fighting). Future studies should determine economic as well as welfare-related values of these traits in order to decide whether selection for these traits will be reasonable. © The Animal Consortium 2016.