Selection for temperament has no negative consequences on important production traits in farmed mink1

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Danish and European legislation recommend mink breeding programs that include selection for "confidence," defined as exploratory activity in a standardized behavioral test. Although this recommendation may improve mink welfare, farmers may consider this criterion risky due to possible negative consequences on other traits. The overall objectives of this study were to estimate the heritability of exploratory/fearful behavior and to identify genetic correlations with other traits of major economic importance in mink fur production. Various aspects of social influence on exploratory/fearful behavior, such as effects of the mother and litter siblings before weaning, the mother's age, and cage mates after weaning, were analyzed. In total, 26,371 1-yr-old Brown mink (Neovison vison) individuals born during the period of 2013 to2016 were included in the study. Exploratory/fearful behavior was the main trait analyzed. The production traits analyzed were live pelt quality and body weight. Both of these traits were assessed during live grading in November. Pelt length and quality were determined using the dried pelts of nonbreeders. Fertility data were obtained from the Fur Farm database. Linear mixed models were run using the restricted maximum-likelihood method. The genetic correlation between female and male behavior was 0.95 (SE = 0.06), indicating similar genetic backgrounds for both sexes (P = 0.40). For both sexes, the estimated heritability of behavior was 0.19 (SE = 0.03). We found no significant genetic correlation between behavior and production/fertility traits (P > 0.05). Common litter variance indicated a preweaning effect of litter mates and/or dam on postweaning temperament. There was a tendency for offspring from older mothers to explore more than offspring from 1-yr-old mothers. This trend was especially pronounced for males of 2-yr-old mothers (P = 0.05) and females of 4-yr-old mothers (P = 0.06). We conclude that confidence may be selected for among farm mink without detrimental effects on economically important production traits, such as pelt quality and fertility.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Pages (from-to)1987-1995
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019

    Research areas

  • Neovison vison, correlated response, fertility traits, pelt quality traits, social interaction, variance components

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