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The role of breeding and genetics

in animal welfare
T. Bas Rodenburg, Animal Breeding & Genomics Centre
Simon P. Turner, Scottish Agricultural College (SAC)

Introduction

 Domestication started
thousands of years ago

 Past 50-60 years:
intensive selection for
increased production

 Genetic selection
● Contributed to welfare issues: lameness broilers
● Can also be used to alleviate welfare issues
(Rauw et al., 1998)

Variation between species

 Domestic species vary greatly in:
● Traits under selection
● Selection intensity
● Application of breeding technologies

 Intensive versus extensive systems
 Differences in genetic progress

Focus on intensive sectors  Breeding-related welfare challenges ● Mainly associated with the highly selected poultry. dairy and pig sectors  Also play a role in the extensively managed breeds ● Increased lambing rate: reduction in lamb survival ● Calving difficulties in beef cattle .

Variation within species  Breeds and hybrids  Generalist.versus specialist-type ● Intensive production: generalist-type ● Rare breeds: specialist-type  Rare breeds more hardy in specific environments ● Easy care sheep .

High-yield crosses  Pigs and poultry: pure-bred lines used for selection ● Commercial product is a hybrid cross (4 lines) ● Female lines: reproductive traits Male line: fast growth. low feed conversion  Sheep production: low-maintenance ewes ● Mated to less hardy. but more productive sires ● Crossbreds for fattening on lower ground .

2008) ..Selection for increased growth in broilers  Extremely successful: ● 25 to 100 grams/day  Increased incidences of ● Lameness ● Ascites ● Sudden death syndrome (Knowles et al.

2004) .. 2004 (van Horne et al..Suboptimal conditions 40 35 Temperature 30 25 Control 20 Test 15 10 5 0 1 6 14 16 21 Age (days) 29 42 49 Van Horne et al.

8 13..7 4.7 1.8 Total Heart + circulation 0 1.7 0 Heart Failure 0 0 1.2 15.0 Van Horne et al.7 1.. 2004 (van Horne et al.3 Ascites 0 0 0.Mortality Slow growing Fast growing A B C Sudden Death 0 1. 2004) .

Slower growing broilers  Grow to slaughter weight in 56 rather than 42 days  Much less welfare issues ● Reduced mortality ● Reduced lameness ● Reduced footpad  Limited feed restriction required in parent stock (dwarf mothers) dermatitis .

2010) .Dairy cows  Selection for increased milk yield ● Decreased fertility and longevity ● Increased lameness ● Increased metabolic problems ● A higher incidence of mastitis  Future: automatic collection of data in/around milking parlour ● Incorporate information in breeding program (Oltenacu and Broom.

.. 2005) .27) ● Backfat thickness (-0.28)  Selection for early sexual maturation laying hens ● Correlated to increased feather pecking (Jensen et al.Selection enhancing undesired behaviour  Genetic correlation tail biting with (Breuer et al. 2005): ● Lean tissue growth rate (0.

. 2011) ● Feather pecking in laying hens  Helpful in understanding behaviours ● Unravel underlying mechanisms Frequency of feather pecking (Kjaer et al.Selection for improved welfare  Direct selection against undesired behaviours feasible ● Aggression in pigs (Turner. 2001) 5 4 3 High feather pecking 2 Low feather pecking 1 0 0 1 2 Generation 3 .

Breeding for improved group performance  Traditional: focus on individual performance  Risk to select animals that are harmful for group performance  Alternative methods needed that take group performance into account .

5 Group Selected 19 6.Group selection (Muir.7 . 1996) Eggs Per cage 26 Per individual 6.3 15 15 Individual Selected 23 5.

Cumulative mortality (Muir. 1996) 450 CONTROL 400 350 GROUP SELECTED 7 300 COMMERCIAL 250 200 150 100 50 0 18 21 24 27 30 33 36 39 42 AGE (WEEKS) 45 48 51 54 57 .

2007)  Social breeding values ● Estimate the genetic effect an animal has on the performance of its group mates (Muir. 2005. Bijma et al.New methods  Kin selection method ● Combine individual performance with information from sisters in group housing (Ellen et al.. 2007) ..

2007) .Kin selection on low mortality White leghorn line Control line: Low mortality line • Selection candidate individual • Selection on production • • • • Selection candidate individual Selection on production Full sisters in group (4) Selection on low mortality Non-beak trimmed in cages: mortality due to cannibalism (Ellen et al..

Results after one generation Generation 1 Mortality % 50 40 30 20 10 0 Control Low .

. Rodenburg et al. 2009.. Nordquist et al. 2011) . 2009ab.Effects on behaviour  Birds selected on low mortality: ● Less fearful ● Young age ● Adult age ● Reduced stress response ● Less cannibalistic pecking ● Changes in the serotonergic system compared with control birds (Bolhuis et al.

● Involved in foraging and in feather pecking (van Hierden et al... 2009) . 2004)  Selection for low mortality: changes in the peripheral serotonergic (5-HT) system (Bolhuis et al.Role of the serotonergic system  Feather pecking is redirected foraging ● In response to fear and stress inducing stimuli  The serotonergic (5-HT) system central role: ● Involved in coping with fear and stress.

. 2009) .FP and the serotonergic system  Associations between feather pecking and genes involved in the serotonergic system  Comparison of lines selected for high an low FP  Frequency difference DEAF1 polymorphisms ● Regulatory gene serotonergic system (Flisikowski et al.

2 0 Brown White ● Association between feather damage and HTR2C ● Receptor gene serotonergic system (after Biscarini et al. 2010) .4 0.FP and the serotonergic system  Association study on feather damage of laying hens ● Brown and white lines Allele frequency ● Nine different lines 1 0.6 0..8 0.

5 5 4.. 2008) .5 4 Brown White (after Uitdehaag et al.Plumage condition Plumage condition 5.

2008) .2 Brown White 0.3 0..1 0 23 46 69 Age (weeks) (after Uitdehaag et al.4 0.Fearfulness Probability of showing a fearful response 0.

2009. 2009ab.Coherent with selection experiment  Birds selected on low mortality ● ● ● ● Less fearful Reduced stress response Less cannibalistic pecking Changes in the serotonergic system compared with control birds  Further developing genetic fingerprint associated with FP will enhance possibilities for genetic selection (Bolhuis et al. Rodenburg et al. Nordquist et al.. 2011) ..

Aggression in pigs  Observed after mixing but also under stable conditions ● Mixing is a routine procedure  Results in skin lesions  Aggression can negatively affect performance (Turner et al.. 2006) .

.26) (Lovendahl et al. 2006.Breeding against aggression  Technically possible ● Fighting and bullying have moderate heritabilities in pigs (between 0.. Turner et al. 2005.43) ● Number of resulting skin lesions (between 0. 2009)  Genetic correlations indicate that skin lesions can be used as an indicator of being aggressive (Turner et al.21 and 0.17 and 0. 2006) ..

. 2005) . 2010. 2011..Effects of selection  Genetic correlation between aggression around mixing and under stable conditions: selection reduces both  Associated changes in: ● Genes involved in coping with stress (HPA-axis) ● Brain gene expression vasopressin and serotonin ● Altered cholesterol metabolism (Murani et al. D’Eath et al.

2009)  No differences in general activity levels to underlie reduced aggressiveness ● No adverse effects on lean tissue growth (Turner et al. 2006) ...Effects of selection  Selection might alter basic pathways that govern a range of biological functions ● Aggressive animals also faster to enter weighing scale (D’Eath et al.

Social breeding values  Traditional selection methods lack attention for social interactions  Social genetic effects contribute profoundly to genetic variance in growth rate in pigs (Bergsma et al. 2008) .

03a 11.84 0. 2010.46 Rear 1. ** p < 0.77 2.63b * * p < 0.27 1. (2008) Post mixing Low SBV High SBV Anterior 17.Number of lesions Similar results found by Canario et al.59b ** Middle 7.80 7.05.10 Back - Steady situation High SBV Low SBV 4.95 2.90 1.08a 4.33 1.28 1. 2008) . Canario et al. unpublished results (Rodenburg et al.01 De Vries.

2012) . 2012.Effects on manipulative behaviour  High SBV pigs showed: ● Showed 15% more comfort behaviour ● Spent 14% less time on ear biting ● Spent 35% less time on chewing objects ● Had less tail damage  This may indicate that low SBV pigs have a stronger tendency to perform oral manipulation (Camerlink et al. Ursinus et al.

Conclusion selection experiments  Scope to use novel selection methods to improve welfare of group-housed animals ● Kin selection laying hens ● Social breeding value pigs  Progress may be slower than expected ● Hens: easier to select for increased damage ● Pigs: realised genetic progress relatively small  Increased understanding of genetics of social behaviour .

General conclusion  Breeding and genetics: important role in the welfare of domestic animals  If focused only on increasing production: ● Clear risk of increasing welfare problems  Wider perspective is needed that encompasses both production and welfare traits .

General conclusion  Genomics era could offer opportunities ● More precise information on the biological impact of certain breeding decisions  Help breeders to make more informed choices in their selection programs ● Facilitate selection for complex behavioural traits: 5-HT polymorphisms ● Genetic fingerprint: targeted genomic selection approaches .

Open to collaboration!  Main topic: ● Improving social behaviour in group-housed animals by genetic selection and improving early-life conditions  Future position (from 1 August): ● Assistant Professor Behavioural Ecology at WUR ● Focus on research + teaching applied animal behaviour and welfare ● Centre of Animal Welfare and Adaptation (CAWA) .

edited by Don Lay) .Thank you! This paper will be published in the July 2012 issue of Animal Frontiers (special issue on Animal Welfare.