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Study of Role of Temperament in Sow Lameness, Longevity

30 October 2012
Manitoba Pork Council

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CANADA - Researchers with the Prairie Swine Centre are confident, by considering temperament when selecting gilts for breeding, pork producers can develop genetic lines that are better suited for group housing systems, writes Bruce Cochrane.

As part of multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary research initiative being conducted on behalf of Swine Innovation Porc, scientists at the Prairie Swine Centre are focusing on the role of temperament in contributing to sow lameness and longevity.

Dr Jennifer Brown. a research scientist ethology with the Prairie Swine Centre, says studies around animal temperament and personality are just in their early stages.

Dr Jennifer Brown-Prairie Swine Centre:

When we're looking at managing animals in groups, if we can use temperament traits and measures of assessing temperament, we can select for animals that are better suited to our production so producing sows in group housing.

We're going to be selecting for sows that are less aggressive, animals that are going to get along well in a group setting. Some geneticists feel that we've inadvertently over the years selected for animals that are more aggressive.

By putting them in a competitive group situation and then measuring their average daily gain and their food consumption we've selected animals that are growing quickly in a competitive feeding situation and often these animals are the most aggressive ones. So both in the swine industry and in the poultry industry we've kind of inadvertently selected for temperament traits, and now if we're more conscious of the animal's temperament and the kind of traits that we want to see in our production systems, I think will be quite effective at being able to improve productivity and reduce some negative behaviors.

Through selection of temperament you can also select for traits such as maternal traits, so sows that are going to be better mothers.

We also look at temperament as related to animals' handling behaviour.

Dr Brown says expects the data gathered through this project to be used by genetics companies or by producers as a tool for selecting replacement gilts.

ThePigSite News Desk

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