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Analysis of birth weight variability in pigs with respect to liveborn and total born offspring

Wittenburg, D., Guiard, V., Teuscher, F., Reinsch, N.
Journal of animal breeding and genetics 2011 v.128 no.1 pp. 35-43
birth weight, heritability, landraces, models, parturition, piglets, progeny, sows, variance
Reduction in the variability of piglet birth weight within litter and increased piglet survival are key objective in schemes aiming to improve sow prolificacy. In previous studies, variation in birth weight was described by the sample standard deviation of birth weights within one litter, and the genetic impact has been proved. In this study, we additionally considered the sex effect on piglet's birth weight and on its variability. The sample variance of birth weights per litter separated by sex was assigned as a trait of the sow. Different transformations of the trait were fitted by linear and generalized linear mixed models. Based on 1111 litters from Landrace sows, the estimates of heritability for the different measures ranged from 11 to 12%. We analysed the influence of including birth weight of stillborn piglets on the variability of birth weight within litter. With omitted stillborns, the heritability was estimated approximately 2% higher than that in investigations of all born piglets, and the impact of sex on birth weight variability was increased. Because the proportion of intrapartum deaths is rather high, it is recommended to consider the total number of piglets born per litter when analysing birth weight variation.