Difference in health and behaviour between two different pig line crosses

University essay from SLU/Dept. of Animal Breeding and Genetics

Abstract: The most common housing system within the European Union for gestating sows and gilts have for many years been individual stalls while Sweden on the contrary has a long history, since the end of the 1980s, of group housing. The switch of breeding material in the beginning of the 2000ies in Sweden resulted in the end of breeding of the Swedish Yorkshire (SY), and instead the Dutch Yorkshire (ZY) was introduced to Swedish pig producers. Because the genetic selection of these two lines of York-shire pigs have been performed in different environments, this may have cause be-havioural differences between them that may be important in group housing systems. The overall aims of this MSc thesis study was to develop relevant protocols that could be used to record health and behaviour in pigs, but also to investigate if there are any differences in health and behaviour between the two line crosses of pigs in three dif-ferent age categories; sows (N=16), piglets (N=38) and slaughter pigs (N=40) where piglets and slaughter pigs had Hampshire (H) as sire breed. The health and behaviour were recorded through direct observation on each individual focal animal. Scan sam-pling was used to record different variables of body posture, location in the pen and activity. Social interactions that involved the focal animals were observed continu-ously for five minutes for each pen. Lameness, locomotion and wounds on the body were investigated and recorded as measurements of health in the health assessment. In general, the results showed that there were relatively few differences in behav-iour and health between the different line crosses in the three different age categories. However, it was found in the health assessment that SY sows had significantly more wounds on the ears compared to ZY sows (P=0.016) and SY'H slaughter pigs had more wounds on the middle part of the body than ZY'H slaughter pigs (P=<0.0001). There was also a tendency (P=0.062) that ZY'H piglets had more wounds on the hindquarters compared to SY'H piglets. The results from scan sampling could not show any significant differences between the two different lines of sows. For piglets, significant interactions were found between line cross and age of the piglets regarding location in the pen. An interaction for slaughter pigs between line cross and group size was found regarding the body posture “standing”, were ZY'H pigs in small groups spent more time standing compared to SY'H pigs in small groups. Further-more, the results did not show any significant differences in social behaviours be-tween the two line crosses in the three different age categories. The conclusion of this study is that there exist some differences between SY and ZY pigs. However, due to the small and limited data set available in this pilot study the results may not be representative for the whole population of the two line crosses of pigs and this should be considered when interpreting the results from this study.

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