Backtest and novelty behavior of female and castrated male piglets, with diverging social breeding values for growth

I. Reimert, T.B. Rodenburg, W.W. Ursinus, N. Duijvesteijn, I. Camerlink, B. Kemp, J.E. Bolhuis

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23 Citations (Scopus)


Pigs housed together in a group influence each other’s growth. Part of this effect is genetic and can be represented in a social breeding value. It is unknown, however, which traits are associated with social breeding values. The aim of this study was, therefore, to investigate whether personality and response to novelty could be associated with social breeding values for growth in piglets. Female and castrated male piglets from 80 litters, with either an estimated relative positive or negative social breeding value (+SBV or –SBV) for growth, were individually tested in a backtest and novel environment test, and group-wise in a novel object (i.e., a feeder with feed) test and human approach test. All tests were performed during the suckling period. No differences between +SBV and –SBV piglets were found for the frequency and latency of struggling and vocalizing in the backtest (at least, P > 0.30). In the novel object test, piglets with a +SBV for growth touched the feeder faster than piglets with –SBV for growth (P = 0.01) and were more frequently present near the person in the human approach test (P <0.01). No behavioral differences between +SBV and –SBV piglets were found in the novel environment test (at least, P > 0.40), but piglets that struggled more in the backtest walked more in this test (P = 0.02). Behavior was affected by gender in each test. Female piglets were faster than castrated male piglets to start struggling in the backtest (P = 0.047). In the novel object test, females were faster than males to touch the feeder and sample the feed. In the human approach test, they were also faster than male piglets to touch a person (all, P <0.001). Females were also more frequently present near the feeder (P <0.001) and person (P = 0.03). In the novel environment test, female piglets explored the floor more (P = 0.046), produced less low- (P = 0.04) and high-pitched vocalizations (P = 0.02), and defecated (P = 0.08) and urinated less than male piglets (P <0.01). It was concluded that +SBV and –SBV piglets do not differ in their response to the backtest, and only subtle differences were found in their response to novelty. More research is warranted to identify the traits underlying SBV for growth in pigs. Moreover, castrated male piglets seemed to react more fearfully to each test than female piglets.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4589-4597
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • different coping characteristics
  • average daily gain
  • laying hens
  • genetic-parameters
  • group selection
  • environmental enrichment
  • multilevel selection
  • stress responses
  • animal-welfare
  • growing gilts


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