Progress Reported in Genetic Selection for Disease Resilience

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Farmscape for July 24, 2020

Full Interview 25:38 Listen

Research aimed at identifying factors that will allow scientists to predict the resilience of swine used for breeding to disease continues to make steady progress. Since 2015 an international team of scientists has been contributing to a natural disease challenge model, established at the CDPQ wean to finish commercial research facilities in Quebec, for evaluating the resilience of swine to disease.
Dr. John Harding, a Professor with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, says a number of phenotypic traits and immune measures have been identified that are very promising.

Clip-Dr. John Harding-Western College of Veterinary Medicine:
One of the very interesting findings that we’ve identified is that variation in daily feed intake is a good measure of disease resilience.
Animals that continue to eat the same amount without a lot of daily fluctuation tend to be more resilient animals. We can select for that and that’s a trait that is not easily measured but it is certainly measured. That’s one of the outcomes and it’s genetically correlated and it’s a heritable trait so I think we could easily make some genetic progress. Another one on the health side is high immune response technology. This is a tool or technique that’s come out of the University of Guelph and it is a measure of both the antibody and the cell mediated immune responses. We’ve got some early data that is suggesting that it is potentially predictive of how those animals will face when they face disease challenge down the road. But there are a number of other immune traits that we still are interested in.
There’s an antibody level test, a natural antibody test, there’s some mitogen stimulation assays that we’re looking at.
We’ve got an interesting piece where we’ve looked at some enrichment and behavior monitoring in the barn as well so there’s a number of things that are still ongoing.

Dr. Harding says, looking forward, disease resilience should be a trait that’s as important as some of the traits we’ve been selecting for for many years, whether that’s reproductive performance, or growth performance or carcass quality.

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