Breeding & Genetics, SEGES Pig Production constantly strives to increase the breeding progress for DanBred’s customers. A new method for evaluating the breeding animals’ genetic heredity for conformation will ensure an even better robustness of slaughter pigs and sows through increased leg and back strength.
Today, the conformation of the breeding candidates in DanBred’s breeding program is evaluated at the end of the performance test in all nucleus herds. This is also a part of the station test at Bøgildgård. Annually, the expert technicians evaluate the conformation of between 90.000 and 100.000 of the performance tested animals. The conformation score of the pig is used as an indicator of the pig’s robustness through the production system, where correct leg position, leg and hoof health as well as movement are important elements in the pig’s function and, thus, robustness. This applies to both slaughter pigs, gilts and sows.
So far, an overall score has been used to assess which animals are the best in terms of conformation. However, the breeding technicians always evaluate conformation for the subcategories forequarter, hindquarter and back too, and now a new method can ensure that all these pieces of information about the conformation of the pig are utilised even better.
“The improved conformation trait is better for distinguishing between the animals, and it makes is easier and more accurate to select the strongest pigs as parent pigs for the next generations in the breeding program. Because the newly redefined conformation trait, which combines the information from the subcategories and the overall score of the pig, has shown to have the maximum genetic variance and, thus, a higher heredity compared to the overall score alone, ”says Birgitte Ask, Chief Scientist in Breeding & Genetics, Danish Pig Research Centre.
Great conformation ensures robust breeding animals
Since 1995, conformation has been a trait in the breeding goal for the maternal breeds DanBred Yorkshire and DanBred Landrace, as well as for the terminal sire breed DanBred Duroc. Great conformation in the pig reduces culling-out percentage of the animals due to leg and back problems, improves the pig’s welfare and increases earnings for DanBred’s customers.
Heredity and predictability are increased by 10% compared to the previous conformation trait with the new method, so heredity – i.e. the proportion of differences between animals that is due to genes and not the environment – is now up to 22%. The improved method for evaluating the animal’s genetic hereditary disposition of conformation does not alter the trait in breeding target, but merely improves the utilization of the existing genetic variation in the breeding animals. The method is expected to be implemented during the summer of 2019 and is expected to result in a 2-5% increase in breeding progress for conformation.