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Identifying Genetic Markers Associated with Low Stress Reaction in Pigs

Improved animal welfare enhances marketability of animal products, and long-term sustainability of pig production. The project will help inform genetic selection for stress tolerant animals, which may lead to improved animal performance, meat quality and welfare.


Principal investigator: Renée Bergeron
Other investigators: Ray Lu, Anna Kate Shoveller

What challenge does "Identifying Genetic Markers Associated with Low Stress Reaction in Pigs" address?

Intensively raised pigs commonly experience a range of social and environmental stressors. Stress not only impacts the animal’s immune system and general health, but also affects growth performance and meat quality and increases cost of production. This stress can cause both financial loss to the pork industry and public concerns for animal welfare.

The genetic basis of behaviour in pigs is largely unknown. Furthermore, pig nutrient budgets in relation to their reactivity to stress have not been established through growth. Since animal behavioural and neuroendocrine responses to stress are highly variable due to genetic polymorphisms, genetic selection could be potentially used to produce animals that are better adapted to their environment and minimize stress in commercial pork production.

How will this research address the challenge?

The team’s research objectives are to survey and identify specific genetic variations/markers at the five gene loci in high- and low- stress Yorkshire piglets, assessed through behavioural and physiological variables. They will study the correlation of those specific genetic markers of stress with growth performance, carcass composition, energy expenditure, nutrient oxidation, and meat quality.

What impact will the project have on agriculture?

This research will lead to the identification of valuable genetic markers of a low stress reaction in pigs, which will then eventually be used by breeders to select breeding stock that are better adapted to their environment, and hence less challenged by intensive conditions and more productive.

Other information

Partners: Canadian Centre for Swine Improvement, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Swine Innovation Porc.

Collaborators and students: Moshen Jafarikia (CCSI), Ira Mandell, Andy Robinson, Nicolas Devillers (AAFC), Shayla Larson (MSc student), Theresa Faulkner (MSc student), Krysta Morrissey (post-doc), Stuart Burdett (MSc student), Wilfredo Mansilla (post-doc).

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