Genetic associations of short- and long-term aggressiveness identified by skin lesion with growth, feed efficiency and carcass characteristics in growing pigs
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The objective of this study was to investigate the genetic relationships between skin lesion traits in group housed growing pigs as a measure of short- (in a newly mixed group) and long- (in a socially stable group) term aggression and commonly used commercial performance measures: growth, feed intake, feed efficiency, and carcass traits. Data on 2,413 growing pigs (138 groups) were available. Pigs were mixed into new social groups of 18 animals, and skin lesions were counted 24 h (SL24h) and 5 wk (SL5wk) postmixing. The animal model was used to estimate genetic parameters for skin lesion traits, test daily gain, lifetime daily gain, daily feed intake, feed efficiency (calculated as test daily gain divided by daily feed intake), loin depth, back fat, and HCW. Skin lesions had a heritable component, ranging from 0.08 for anterior SL24h to 0.22 for central SL5wk and would, therefore, be suitable as a method of phenotyping aggression for selection purposes. Significant positive genetic correlations were found between SL24h and SL5wk (0.46 to 0.81). Positive genetic correlations were also found between SL24h (central and posterior body regions) or SL5wk (all body regions) and the production traits lifetime daily gain, test daily gain, and HCW (0.29 to 0.54). Central SL24h, anterior SL5wk, and posterior SL5wk were found to correlate positively with feed efficiency (0.39 to 0.50), suggesting that pigs with more lesions convert feed more efficiently. Where significant, the magnitude of phenotypic correlations was low but positive (0.07 to 0.10). These results suggest that, genetically, animals that receive many lesions show improved performance compared to those with few lesions, except for anterior SL24h, which had previously been shown to be genetically positively correlated with the initiation of nonreciprocal attacks. It may, therefore, be possible, via selection against anterior skin lesions at mixing, to reduce this form of 1-sided aggression without adversely affecting production traits.
Accepted for publication
Journal Title/Title of Proceedings
Journal of Animal Science