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Thinh Tuan Chu

Genetic variation in piglet mortality in outdoor organic production systems

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Piglet mortality from farrowing to weaning is a major concern, especially in outdoor organic production systems. This issue might impair animal welfare and generate economic losses for the farmer. In particular, it is difficult to apply management tools that are commonly used for indoor pig production systems to organic or outdoor production systems. Genetics and breeding approaches might be used to improve piglet survival. However, knowledge remains limited on the genetic background underlying survival traits in organic pigs that are born and reared outdoors. Here, we investigated the mortality of piglets from farrowing to weaning in an outdoor organic pig population and suggested genetic strategies to reduce piglet mortality in this production system. The experiment included mortality records of piglets from farrowing to weaning (around 69 days of age). Pedigree-based threshold models were used to analyse the mortality traits of piglets at 0-3 days of age, 4-11 days, and 12 days to weaning. Stillborn piglets were included in the group of piglets that died at 0-3 days of age. We found that the mortality rate from farrowing to weaning was, on average, 19.2%. However, most piglet deaths (79.1%) occurred at 0-11 days of age. As the age of piglets increased, the direct heritability of piglet mortality rose from 0 to 0.04, whereas maternal heritability decreased from 0.03 to a non-significant value. Piglets with higher BW had a lower mortality rate. However, the genetic correlations between maternal effects on piglet mortality and piglet BW were not significant; thus, selection for piglets with higher BW at around 10 days of age, through improving maternal genetics, would not reduce piglet mortality. Piglet mortality increased from sows with increasing number of parities. Crossbreeding also reduced piglet mortality. In conclusion, selection focusing on sow genotype, the use of younger sows, and crossbreeding could contribute to maintain piglet mortality at lower levels in outdoor organic pig production systems.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAnimal : an international journal of animal bioscience
Pages (from-to)100529
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Apr 2022

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Copyright © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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