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ARS Home » Plains Area » Clay Center, Nebraska » U.S. Meat Animal Research Center » Livestock Bio-Systems » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #262241

Title: Genetics of sow behavior: Associations with reproductive performance and perspectives toward loose sow housing

item Schneider, James
item Rempel, Lea
item Rohrer, Gary
item Brown-Brandl, Tami

Submitted to: Swine Improvement Federation Proceedings
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/2/2010
Publication Date: 12/2/2010
Citation: Schneider, J., Rempel, L., Rohrer, G., Brown Brandl, T. 2010. Genetics of sow behavior: Associations with reproductive performance and perspectives toward loose sow housing [PowerPoint]. Record of Proceedings of National Swine Improvement Federation. NSIF Volume 35. Available at:

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: A herd’s sow lifetime productivity is often reduced because a majority of animals are culled due to reproductive failure between replacement gilt selection and mating for the second parity. The ability to better identify young females with superior reproductive potential would have a major economic impact on swine production. The objective of this study was to determine if certain behavior traits were correlated with reproduction and if they could be useful in selecting for more productive females. A scale activity score (SA) taken at 5 mo of age and a farrowing disposition (FD) score taken at farrowing were selected as the behavioral traits. Scale activity score ranged from 1 to 5 and FD ranged from 1 to 3. Reproductive traits included age at puberty (AP), number born alive (NBA), number born dead (NBD), litter birth weight (LBW), average piglet birth weight (ABW), number weaned adjusted for cross fostering (NW), litter weaning weight (LWW), average weaning weight (AWW), wean to estrus interval (WEI), and ovulation rate including gilts (ORG), and post-weaning ovulation rate (OR). Linear mixed models (MTDFREML) were used incorporating fixed effects, covariates and an animal direct genetic effect. Estimated heritabilities were 0.15, 0.06, 0.19, 0.12, 0.02, 0.18, 0.44, 0.11, 0.22, 0.38, 0.02, 0.49, and 0.45 for SA, FD, AP, NBA, NBD, LBW, ABW, NW, LWW, AWW, WEI, OR, ORG, respectively. Genetic correlations between SA and reproduction ranged from -0.79 to 0.61. Three of the correlations, NW, LWW, and AWW approached significance (P < 0.10) and three, NBA, ABW, and WEI were significant (P < 0.05). The correlations were both beneficial and non-beneficial. In contrast, all but three of the FD correlations were beneficial and ranged from -0.66 to 0.67. Only one of the correlations, LBW, was significant (P < 0.05) and one, NBA, approached significance (P < 0.10). The consistent beneficial direction of all FD correlations except SA (0.02), AP (0.00) and AWW (0.17) show potential for inclusion of FD into a selection program. Improvements in lowly heritable but economically viable traits such as NBA, NBD, NW, and WEI could have an economic impact on pork production.