Direct, maternal and nurse sow genetic effects on farrowing-pre-weaning- and total piglet survival

E.F. Knol, B.J. Ducro, J.A.M. van Arendonk, T. van der Lende

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Peri- and postnatal survival data, including birth weights and cross-foster information from two line/farm combinations with 33717 and 29200 piglets, respectively, were analyzed to find the best genetic model to describe piglet survival. This was done in terms of direct (piglet), maternal and nurse sow genetic effects, maternal to cover uterine quality and nurse sow to cover mothering ability. The two component traits, farrowing and pre-weaning survival and — birth weight, the most important factor for survival — were similarly analyzed. As fixed effects, Year/Season, cross, parity, birth weight in classes of 100 g, litter size as such, and sex were included in the analyses. Models combining the different genetic effects were compared on the basis of the log-likelihood. A maternal/nurse sow model fitted the data best for pre-weaning survival, a direct/maternal model for birth weight, a direct model for farrowing survival in the dam line and a direct/maternal model for farrowing survival in the sire line. Including nurse sow effect in a model for piglet survival as a whole gave erratic results, making it difficult to define an optimal model. Estimated heritabilities for pre-weaning survival, measured on the binary scale, in the dam line were 0.02±0.005 for both maternal and nurse sow effects. Heritabilities for birth weight were, on average for the two lines, 0.04±0.01 for the direct effect and 0.20±0.03 for the maternal effect. In conclusion, selection for increased component traits of piglet survival is possible. Author Keywords: Pig genetics; Piglet survival; Genetic parameter; Birth weight; Maternal effect; Stillborn; Pre-weaning mortality
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-164
JournalLivestock Production Science
Publication statusPublished - 2002


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