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Trade-offs between litter size and offspring fitness in domestic pigs subjected to different genetic selection pressures

By Marko Ocepek, Ruth C. Newberry, Inger Lise Andersen

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Abstract

Artificial selection of the domestic pig (Sus scrofa domesticus) offers a useful model for investigating changes in behaviour associated with reproductive trade-offs between litter size and fitness of offspring. The aim of this study was to evaluate effects of litter size on teat stimulation, sibling competition, and pre-weaning survival and growth in three populations of domestic pigs subjected to different selection pressures (a maternal line selected for high reproductive investment, a paternal line selected for meat production traits, and a crossbred line). We predicted that, with increasing litter size, piglets would spend more time in udder massage, be less likely to gain access to a teat during milk letdown and, if surviving to weaning, have lower, more variable body weights. We also predicted that maternal line sows would wean more piglets of higher weight, despite larger litter sizes, than paternal line sows. Sows (maternal line, n=12, paternal line, n=12, crossbred line, n=14) were loose-housed with their litters in individual farrowing pens. We collected data on piglet behaviour during nursings at 1day of age, when sibling competition was expected to be most intense. Piglets were weaned at 35days of age, when they were weighed and cumulative mortality was calculated. As predicted, piglets in larger litters spent more time in pre- and post-letdown udder massage (P=0.050 and P

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 193
Pages 7-14
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2017.03.008
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Tags
  1. Artificial selection
  2. Litters
  3. Motherhood
  4. progeny
  5. Reproduction
  6. suckling