The pork supply chain values steady and undisturbed piglet production. Fertilization and maintaining gestation in warm and hot climates is a challenge that can be potentially improved by selection. The objective of this study was to estimate 1) genetic variation for farrowing rate of sows in 2 dam lines and their reciprocal cross; 2) genetic variation for farrowing rate heat tolerance, which can be defined as the random regression slope of farrowing rate against increasing temperature at day of insemination, and the genetic correlation between farrowing rate and heat tolerance; 3) genetic correlation between farrowing rate in purebreds and crossbreds; and 4) genetic correlation between heat tolerance in purebreds and crossbreds. The estimates were based on 93,969 first insemination records per cycle from 24,456 sows inseminated between January 2003 and July 2008. These sows originated from a Dutch purebred Yorkshire dam line (D), an International purebred Large White dam line (ILW), and from their reciprocal crosses (RC) raised in Spain and Portugal. Within-line and crossbred models were used for variance component estimation. Heritability estimates for farrowing rate were 0.06, 0.07, and 0.02 using within-line models for D, ILW, and RC, respectively, and 0.07, 0.07, and 0.10 using the crossbred model, respectively. For farrowing rate, purebred-crossbred genetic correlations were 0.57 between D and RC and 0.50 between ILW and RC. When including heat tolerance in the within-line model, heritability estimates for farrowing rate were 0.05, 0.08, and 0.03 for D, ILW, and RC, respectively. Heritability for heat tolerance at 29.3 degrees C was 0.04, 0.02, and 0.05 for D, ILW, and RC, respectively. Genetic correlations between farrowing rate and heat tolerance tended to be negative in crossbreds and ILW-line sows, implying selection for increased levels of production traits, such as growth and reproductive output, is likely to increase environmental sensitivity. This study shows that genetic selection for farrowing rate and heat tolerance is possible. However, when this selection is based solely on purebred information, the expected genetic progress on farrowing rate and heat tolerance in crossbreds ( commercial animals) would be inconsequential.
Bloemhof, S., Kause, A., Knol, E. F., van Arendonk, J. A. M., & Misztal, I. (2012). Heat stress effects on farrowing rate in sows: Genetic parameter estimation using within-line and crossbred models. Journal of Animal Science, 90(7), 2109-2119. https://doi.org/10.2527/jas.2011-4650