Main content area

Social genetic effects for growth in pigs differ between boars and gilts

Nielsen, Hanne M., Ask, Birgitte, Madsen, Per
Genetics, selection, evolution 2018 v.50 no.1 pp. 4
animal models, average daily gain, boars, covariance, data analysis, genetic correlation, genetic variance, gilts, heritability, variance
BACKGROUND: Average daily gain (ADG) in pigs is affected by the so-called social (or indirect) genetic effects (SGE). However, SGE may differ between sexes because boars grow faster than gilts and their social behaviours differ. We hypothesized that direct genetic effects (DGE) and SGE for ADG in pigs differ between boars and gilts and that accounting for these differences will improve the predictive ability of a social genetic effects model (SGM). Our data consisted of ADG from 30 to 94 kg for 32,212 uncastrated males (boars) and 48,252 gilts that were raised in sex-specific pens. Data were analyzed using a univariate model with sex as a fixed effect and a bivariate model with ADG in boars and gilts as separate traits using both a classical animal model (CM) and a SGM. RESULTS: With the univariate model, the heritability for ADG was 0.22 ± 0.01 for the CM, while the estimate of the total heritable variance (T²) was 0.23 ± 0.01 with the SGM. With the bivariate model, the genetic variance for SGE was higher for boars (13.8 ± 5.8) than for gilts (9.3 ± 3.9). For the bivariate model, T² was 0.32 ± 0.02 for boars and 0.27 ± 0.01 for gilts. Estimates of the genetic correlations between DGE (0.88 ± 0.02) and SGE (0.30 ± 0.30) for boars versus gilts indicated that ADG in boars and gilts are different traits. Moreover, the estimate of the genetic correlation between DGE and SGE indicated presence of genetic effects of competition among gilts but not among boars. Compared to a CM, the univariate SGM improved predictive ability significantly only for gilts and the bivariate SGM improved predictive ability significantly for both boars and gilts. CONCLUSIONS: We found significant genetic variances of SGE for ADG. The covariance between DGE and SGE was much more negative for gilts than for boars when applying the bivariate model. Because the estimate of the genetic correlation for ADG between gilts and boars differed significantly from 1 and the predictive ability for boars and gilts was improved significantly with the bivariate model, we recommend the use of a bivariate model to estimate both SGE and DGE for ADG in pigs.