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Indirect genetic effect model using feeding behaviour traits to define the degree of interaction between mates: an implementation in pigs growth rate

  • M. Ragab (a1) (a2), M. Piles (a1), R. Quintanilla (a1) and J. P. Sánchez (a1)


An alternative implementation of the animal model including indirect genetic effect (IGE) is presented considering pair-mate-specific interaction degrees to improve the performance of the model. Data consisted of average daily gain (ADG) records from 663 pigs kept in groups of 10 to 14 mates during the fattening period. Three types of models were used to fit ADG data: (i) animal model (AM); (ii) AM with classical IGE (AM-IGE); and (iii) AM fitting IGE with a specific degree of interaction between each pair of mates (AM-IGEi). Several feeding behavior phenotypes were used to define the pair-mate-specific degree of interaction in AM-IGEi: feeding rate (g/min), feeding frequency (min/day), the time between consecutive visits to the feeder (min/day), occupation time (min/day) and an index considering all these variables. All models included systematic effects batch, initial age (covariate), final age (covariate), number of pigs per pen (covariate), plus the random effect of the pen. Estimated posterior mean (posterior SD) of heritability was 0.47 (0.15) using AM. Including social genetic effects in the model, total heritable variance expressed as a proportion of total phenotypic variance (T2) was 0.54 (0.29) using AM-IGE, whereas it ranged from 0.51 to 0.55 (0.12 to 0.14) with AM-IGEi, depending on the behavior trait used to define social interactions. These results confirm the contribution of IGEs to the total heritable variation of ADG. Moreover, important differences between models were observed in EBV rankings. The percentage of coincidence of top 10% animals between AM and AM-IGEi ranged from 0.44 to 0.89 and from 0.41to 0.68 between AM-IGE and AM-IGEi. Based on the goodness of fit and predictive ability, social models are preferred for the genetic evaluation of ADG. Among models including IGEs, when the pair-specific degree of interaction was defined using feeding behavior phenotypes we obtained an increase in the accuracy of genetic parameters estimates, the better goodness of fit and higher predictive ability. We conclude that feeding behavior variables can be used to measure the interaction between pen mates and to improve the performance of models including IGEs.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives licence (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is unaltered and is properly cited. The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial re-use or in order to create a derivative work.


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Present address: Poultry Production Department, Kafr El-Sheikh University, Kafr El-Sheikh 33516, Egypt. E-mail:



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