Disentangling the dynamics of energy allocation to develop a proxy for robustness of fattening pigs

Genet Sel Evol. 2023 Nov 7;55(1):77. doi: 10.1186/s12711-023-00851-w.


Background: There is a growing need to improve robustness of fattening pigs, but this trait is difficult to phenotype. Our first objective was to develop a proxy for robustness of fattening pigs by modelling the longitudinal energy allocation coefficient to growth, with the resulting environmental variance of this allocation coefficient considered as a proxy for robustness. The second objective was to estimate its genetic parameters and correlations with traits under selection and with phenotypes that are routinely collected. In total, 5848 pigs from a Pietrain NN paternal line were tested at the AXIOM boar testing station (Azay-sur-Indre, France) from 2015 to 2022. This farm is equipped with an automatic feeding system that records individual weight and feed intake at each visit. We used a dynamic linear regression model to characterize the evolution of the allocation coefficient between the available cumulative net energy, which was estimated from feed intake, and cumulative weight gain during the fattening period. Longitudinal energy allocation coefficients were analysed using a two-step approach to estimate both the genetic variance of the coefficients and the genetic variance in their residual variance, which will be referred to as the log-transformed squared residual (LSR).

Results: The LSR trait, which could be interpreted as an indicator of the response of the animal to perturbations/stress, showed a low heritability (0.05 ± 0.01), a high favourable genetic correlation with average daily growth (- 0.71 ± 0.06), and unfavourable genetic correlations with feed conversion ratio (- 0.76 ± 0.06) and residual feed intake (- 0.83 ± 0.06). Segmentation of the population in four classes using estimated breeding values for LSR showed that animals with the lowest estimated breeding values were those with the worst values for phenotypic proxies of robustness, which were assessed using records routinely collected on farm.

Conclusions: Results of this study show that selection for robustness, based on estimated breeding values for environmental variance of the allocation coefficients to growth, can be considered in breeding programs for fattening pigs.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed / analysis
  • Animals
  • Eating* / genetics
  • France
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Phenotype
  • Swine / genetics
  • Weight Gain* / genetics