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Novel Resilience Phenotypes Using Feed Intake Data From a Natural Disease Challenge Model in Wean-to-Finish Pigs

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  • The objective of this study was to extract novel phenotypes related to disease resilience using daily feed intake data from growing pigs under a multifactorial natural disease challenge that was designed to mimic a commercial environment with high disease pressure to maximize expression of resilience. Data used were the first 1,341 crossbred wean-to-finish pigs from a research facility in Québec, Canada. The natural challenge was established under careful veterinary oversight by seeding the facility with diseased pigs from local health-challenged farms, targeting various viral and bacterial diseases, and maintaining disease pressure by entering batches of 60–75 pigs in a continuous flow system. Feed intake (FI) is sensitive to disease, as pigs tend to eat less when they become ill. Four phenotypes were extracted from the individual daily FI data during finishing as novel measures of resilience. The first two were daily variability in FI or FI duration, quantified by the root mean square error (RMSE) from the within individual regressions of FI or duration at the feeder (DUR) on age (RMSEFI and RMSEDUR). The other two were the proportion of off-feed days, classified based on negative residuals from a 5% quantile regression (QR) of daily feed intake or duration data on age across all pigs (QRFI and QRDUR). Mortality and treatment rate had a heritability of 0.13 (±0.05) and 0.29 (±0.07), respectively. Heritability estimates for RMSEFI, RMSEDUR, QRFI, and QRDUR were 0.21 (±0.07) 0.26 (±0.07), 0.15 (±0.06), and 0.23 (±0.07), respectively. Genetic correlations of RMSE and QR measures with mortality and treatment rate ranged from 0.37 to 0.85, with QR measures having stronger correlations with both. Estimates of genetic correlations of RMSE measures with production traits were typically low, but often favorable (e.g., −0.31 between RMSEFI and finishing ADG). Although disease resilience was our target, fluctuations in FI and duration can be caused by many factors other than disease and should be viewed as overall indicators of general resilience to a variety of stressors. In conclusion, daily variation in FI or duration at the feeder can be used as heritable measures of resilience.

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    Article (Published)
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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International
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    • Putz, A. M., Dekkers, J. C. M., Harding, J. C. S., Dyck, M. K., Plastow, G. S., & Fortin, F. (n.d.). Novel resilience phenotypes using feed intake data from a natural disease challenge model in wean-to-finish pigs. Frontiers in Genetics, 10(JAN).