DanBred has announced plans to conduct tests to see if it is possible to breed “social pigs” to reduce aggression in pen groups and allow all pen-mates to realize their genetic potential, leading to more productive pigs.
The study will be carried out by the department of genetic research and development at the Danish Pig Research Centre, which owns and manages the DanBred brand, with the objective to optimize genetic progress, including daily weight gain. Research will begin in 2013, but the company said preparations are already underway. The pigs used will be offspring from specially selected breeding boars. “Selecting for social pigs is unique, as it can potentially identify pigs that are so-called ‘team players’," said a spokeswoman for the project. "These pigs are expected to create a good atmosphere through their behavior. They could allow easy access to feed, enabling fast and increased daily weight gain in all of their pen-mates.”
The growth rates of pigs in each pen, together with the genetic relationships between the animals, will be used to evaluate the effect stable mates have on each other. If an increase in daily weight gain should be observed, this will not only be an expression of a pigs’ genetic potential, but also of the "social" performance of its pen-mates.
“Several 'social' traits have the potential to create improved animal welfare," said the spokeswoman. "Interaction of pigs is also reflected in play, in hormonal effects, the spreading of disease and the establishment of hierarchies. So far, an association has been found between 'social' genetic effect and the ability to establish ranking order within a group. This could lead to less fighting and, therefore, improved animal welfare."