DanBred’s current breeding goals include several traits, which contribute to maintaining optimal animal health and welfare for our high-performance animals.
DanBred’s breeding goals
DanBred’s breeding goals are balanced and include the most economically important traits for pig producers such as finisher efficiency, maternal traits, robustness and meat quality traits. Although some traits may have an unfavourable genetic relationship with other specific traits, DanBred has been able to successfully achieve genetic progress for all traits – with subsequent impressive economic and sustainable results as well as increased productivity. The robustness trait, conformation, which was included in 1995, and the maternal trait LP5, live piglets on day 5/litter, are both examples of traits that contribute to animal health, welfare and productivity simultaneously.
However, as productivity increases, so does the importance of balanced breeding goals in order to avoid compromising on animal health and welfare. Therefore, DanBred’s breeding goals not only focus on increasing productivity, but also ensure genetic gain in robustness to improve the health and welfare of the pigs.
Robustness is key
The breeding of robust pigs is a substantial key input factor to global pig production and ensures healthy and strong animals that are more resistant to changes in their environment. They stay fit and free of infections and diseases, and they maintain a high productivity and a high level of animal welfare.
Selection for improved robustness, i.e. the conformation trait, has contributed to a robust DanBred pig that grows 150-200 g/day faster and has a meat percentage that is 1.5-2.5 percentage points higher than 10 years ago. With such considerable genetic progress for productivity, simultaneous selection for health and survival related traits, such as conformation and LP5, is paramount to ensure healthy and robust pigs. The fact that DanBred has successfully carried out this concurrent focus on productivity, health and welfare, is also one of the key reasons why DanBred has never experienced any serious health issues in its breeding stock.
Social behaviour and survival past day five
In the near future, DanBred plans to include “social genetic interactions” in its breeding goals, which will add to the genetic progress for daily gain and improve animal welfare further due to a reduction in “misbehaviour” such as tail biting. At the R&D level, DanBred is researching the possibility of including an additional survival trait, “from day 5 and onwards”, which has a tremendous perspective for both animal welfare and production economy.
Selecting for conformation
DanBred collects phenotypic records on conformation by using expert technicians, who allocate a subjective conformation score to each pig. The score is based on an evaluation of the pig’s front and hind legs as well as its back and general carriage. The pig’s conformation is assessed while the animal is moving, because limping and lameness are not always visible in an immobile pig. To obtain an accurate and objective evaluation of conformation with the highest possible genetic variation and heritability, it is important to ensure an optimal environment while scoring.
Examples of undesirable conformation characteristics include inwardly or outwardly curved front legs or swayback. Examples of desirable conformation characteristics are a smooth back line and no problems observed on the legs or hooves (Figs. 1 and 2). In total, ~100,000 pigs from 23 nucleus herds are performance tested each year and receive phenotypic records on conformation.
Fig. 1. Correct position of front legs, an example of good conformation score in front legs
Fig. 2. Correct position of hind legs, an example of good conformation score in hind legs