Swine Cluster 1

Capturing genetic merit in differentiated pork production systems through genomics 

Project leader


George Foxcroft, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta   



Project objective


Demonstrate that alignment of the excellent genetic potential of Canadian dam-line sows with management strategies that recognize the origins of major variation in phenotypic traits of terminal line litters and provides major competitive advantages to Canadian pork producers.   



Summary of the project


There will be collaboration with production systems and their genetic suppliers to collect large phenotypic datasets on crossbred sows (commercial genotypes) to characterize the repeatability of the G x E interaction driving differences in litter birth weight over successive parities. This project will provide the basis for establishing “High vs. Low” sow populations that allow, 1) estimates of achievable differences in production efficiency and product differentiation, and 2) linkages between phenotype and genotype to be understood through new generation genomic applications.  


The key objectives of the project are: 


1. To investigate if litter birth weight is a repeatable phenotypic trait 

in commercial sows.  


2. To investigate effects of high versus low birth weight litter of origin on piglet lean growth performance in the nursery  and grow-finish periods, and estimated carcass value.  


3. To develop effective phenotypic traits and in vitro measures of the immune status of birth litters. 


4. To describe the component biological traits of sows in early gestation that are functionally linked to a predicted High/Low litter birth weight phenotype, and to use ovarian, embryonic, placental, and endometrial tissues from these sows to explore the genetic and epigenetic basis for phenotypic variation   



Significant achievements


Data collection and data analysis from two populations of commercial sows confirmed that litter birth weight is a repeatable phenotypic trait in commercial sows. Preliminary analysis of effects of high versus low litter birth weight  on piglet lean growth performance in the nursery and  grow-finish periods and estimated carcass value confirms negative effects of low litter birth weight on growth performance, particularly at the nursery and grower stages of production.