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Open AccessArticle

Genetic Selection to Enhance Animal Welfare Using Meat Inspection Data from Slaughter Plants

Topigs Norsvin BV, PO Box 43, Beuningen 6640 AA, The Netherlands
Wageningen University & Research Animal Breeding and Genomics, PO Box 338, Wageningen 6700 AH, The Netherlands
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2018, 8(2), 16;
Received: 14 November 2017 / Revised: 11 January 2018 / Accepted: 19 January 2018 / Published: 24 January 2018
Analysis of a large volume of meat inspection data suggests availability of genetic variation for most common indicators of poor animal welfare. This genetic variation can be used to select pigs that have the potential to resist common infections and other unfavorable welfare conditions. Genetic selection can be a tool in addition to farm management in reducing the risk of diseases, thereby reducing pain and suffering of animals. In general, the slaughter remarks have small but favorable genetic relationships with finishing and carcass quality traits. Therefore, it is possible to enhance animal welfare along with the genetic selection for economically important production traits.
Animal health and welfare are monitored during meat inspection in many slaughter plants around the world. Carcasses are examined by meat inspectors and remarks are made with respect to different diseases, injuries, and other abnormalities. This is a valuable data resource for disease prevention and enhancing animal welfare, but it is rarely used for this purpose. Records on carcass remarks on 140,375 finisher pigs were analyzed to investigate the possibility of genetic selection to reduce the risk of the most prevalent diseases and indicators of suboptimal animal welfare. As part of this, effects of some non-genetic factors such as differences between farms, sexes, and growth rates were also examined. The most frequent remarks were pneumonia (15.4%), joint disorders (9.8%), pleuritis (4.7%), pericarditis (2.3%), and liver lesions (2.2%). Joint disorders were more frequent in boars than in gilts. There were also significant differences between farms. Pedigree records were available for 142,324 pigs from 14 farms and were used for genetic analysis. Heritability estimates for pneumonia, pleuritis, pericarditis, liver lesions, and joint disorders were 0.10, 0.09, 0.14, 0.24, and 0.17 on the liability scale, respectively, suggesting the existence of substantial genetic variation. This was further confirmed though genome wide associations using deregressed breeding values as phenotypes. The genetic correlations between these remarks and finishing traits were small but mostly negative, suggesting the possibility of enhancing pig health and welfare simultaneously with genetic improvement in finishing traits. A selection index based on the breeding values for these traits and their economic values was developed. This index is used to enhance animal welfare in pig farms. View Full-Text
Keywords: welfare; disease; meat inspection; remark; genetic selection; pigs welfare; disease; meat inspection; remark; genetic selection; pigs
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Mathur, P.K.; Vogelzang, R.; Mulder, H.A.; Knol, E.F. Genetic Selection to Enhance Animal Welfare Using Meat Inspection Data from Slaughter Plants. Animals 2018, 8, 16.

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