Pig International - March 2012 - 13

12 Genetics

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Choosing the right pig breeding stock
Balanced selection and a pig's total genetic merit
should be considered before purchasing.

By Dr. Sam Hoste
The pig breeding stock you
purchase directly affects your
farm's financial success.
Pig traits such as litter size, growth
and feed efficiency are key factors that
influence a pig farmer's balance sheet.
However, there are a number of pig
characteristics that are important for
the long-term expression of the above
traits that are not normally considered.
Some examples that are too easily
taken for granted include:
❱❱ Good temperament and
easy to manage
❱❱ Adaptable to different
temperatures and housing
❱❱ Robust and resistant to disease
❱❱ Long life
❱❱ Easy re-breeding
From a genetics viewpoint, some of
these pig traits are difficult to measure
phenotypically and financially. On-farm
they are not an issue when production
is going right, but become obvious
when things start going wrong.

Balanced selection
Balanced selection is a principle
that is important to animal breeding,
and in the recent past has had
substantial focus from the network of
European pig breeding companies.
It is equilibrium between a pig's
production and its physiology
as measured by its health
and welfare, but also between
production and secondary traits.
First, through selection emphasis
on relatively few pig traits we can
make substantial changes using
traditional quantitative selection.
However, even with quantitative
genetics, undue emphasis can be

CHART 1: EU sow mortality
rates
EU sow mortality rates
16
14
12
10
8
6
4
2
0

Den

mar

k

s
d
e
n
m
in
in
ny
tria
Spa Swede Irelan Franc herland Belgiu at Brita erma
Aus
G
Net
Gre

Italy

Source: 2008 Pig Cost of Production

A comparison of sow mortality figures in countries across the European Union.
placed on a few pig traits to the
detriment of overall genetic merit.
It is overall genetic merit that is of
long-term and sustainable commercial
importance; for example, balanced
selection. But not everything can be
measured easily; for example, some of
the secondary traits mentioned above.
Part of the solution is through the
use of well-trained farm selectors who
take into account additional data on
a pig such as body and leg structure,
temperament and mothering ability.

Piglet mortality
Recently, several populations have
concentrated selection pressure on
total numbers of piglets born. There is
an often-quoted statement, "You can't
improve something unless you measure
it." However, there is a less-well-known
saying, "You get what you measure."
In animal and pig breeding as in
managing people and farms, results

can be different from the naive
intention. Recent UK press articles
have highlighted high numbers of
piglets born associated with high
pre-weaning mortality levels.
As an industry, we have to consider
how consumers view such information
and how the pig industry views different
aspects of animal welfare. The Danish
government, for example, is clearly
disturbed by the large numbers of
piglets that die daily - reportedly
25,000 piglets/day, according to
BPEXExport Bulletin, week 21.

Total genetic merit
When purchasing pig breeding
stock, a rounded consideration of
total genetic merit is necessary
including secondary traits.
Prolific sows are only beneficial
if they are capable of sufficient feed
intake to produce the quantity of milk
required to rear additional piglets.

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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Pig International - March 2012

Contents
Pig International - March 2012 - Cover1
Pig International - March 2012 - Cover2
Pig International - March 2012 - Contents
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