Improve welfare and productivity through selection for behaviour

The Director of Research and Development for Canada with Topigs Norsvin Canada says selecting pigs for breeding that interact well together is helping improve animal welfare and the economics of pork production.
calendar icon 29 November 2019
clock icon 3 minute read

About a year ago Topigs Norsvin added social breeding values to the traits for which it selects breeding stock. Speaking to Farmscape, Dr Pramod Mathur, the Director of Research and Development for Canada with Topigs Norsvin Canada, told Saskatchewan Pork Industry Symposium 2019 in Saskatoon, animal behaviour is important because animal welfare is all about the well being of the animal in its own environment and social environment is part of it.

"The interaction of animals, not only with humans, but interaction among them is really very important and that's why we have emphasised social interaction," explains Dr Mathur.

"What we have looked at is how the animals interact with each other and how they grow together and the social breeding values that we are calculating goes with the principle that, if an animal is aggressive, it gets to the feed drop first, he might grow well.

"We might select that type of pig but it has a negative influence on the pen mates so therefore we would select pigs that are socially supportive which has it's own positive growth but also a positive influence on the pen mates.

"We select for the direct growth, the direct genetic effect, and we select for indirect genetic effect. That way we think that we are improving animal behaviour.

"Our experiments show that this type of selection can also reduce some undesirable behaviour, like tail biting when there is no tail docking."

Dr Mathur says this should provide benefits on both the animal welfare side and the economic side and so far feedback has been positive.

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