Abstract

High resilience against diseases, changing environmental conditions, and other stress factors and the ability to efficiently recover to normal status, is becoming increasingly important in pig production. Finding new phenotypes that relate to resilience is a crucial step for improving the resilience of pigs through selection. The objective of this study was to extract resilience-related phenotypes based on fluctuations in daily feed intake (DFI, g) and time spent in feeding per day (TPD, min) and to estimate the heritability of these traits and genetic correlations with production traits (PT). Resilience-related traits with high enough heritability and with either favorable or neutral genetic correlation with PT could be used in the selection program to improve the productivity and welfare of pigs. In this study, we used data from 7,347 Finnish Yorkshire, Landrace, and crossbred pigs raised at the test station. Six pig-specific resilience-related phenotypes were extracted from the individual DFI and TPD: root mean square error (RMSE), quantile regression (QR), and coefficient of variation (CV). RMSE was calculated from the differences between the actual DFI (or TPD) and the pig-specific predicted values. QR was based on the number of days that a pig belonged to the group with the lowest 5% of pigs based on DFI (or TPD), and CV was calculated over the daily observations of DFI (or TPD). PT included average daily gain (ADG, g), backfat thickness (BF, mm), and feed conversion rate (FCR, g/g). The heritability estimates for resilience-related traits varied between 0.07 ± 0.02 (QRDFI) and 0.20 ± 0.03 (RMSETPD). The genetic correlations between resilience-related traits and PT were mostly neutral, but for example, RMSEDFI had a favorable genetic correlation with FCR and BF but an unfavorable correlation with ADG. Lastly, we observed that pigs belonging to the lowest 10% group based on their breeding value (BV) for QRTPD had a lower proportion (10% incidence) of sick days compared to the highest 10% BV group (30% incidence). Therefore, pigs exhibiting small TPD variation (related to high resilience) tend to be less susceptible to sickness than pigs with large TPD variation (related to low resilience). Given its moderate heritability, neutral genetic correlation with PT, and positive effect on health, QRTPD can be considered the most promising resilience-related trait in the Finnish production system.

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