Genetics of feeding behavior in growing pigs
Heup, Michael Alan
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The field of behavior genetics attempts to explore the genetic underpinnings of complex behavioral traits. Advances in this field have demonstrated certain behaviors to be directly influenced by single genes or by groups of genes. Recently, several candidate genes for feeding behavior have been identified in pigs (Clutter et al., 1996), but it is not certain if these genes work alone or with other unidentified genes, nor is the mechanism for such a quantitative trait, such as feeding behavior, fully understood yet. Additionally, questions are raised as to what variances among and within breeds exist for this behavior. If the factors that result in increased feeding behavior could be genetically identified and then selected for among growing production pigs, weight gain and growth rates would be increased and these superior animals would in turn generate more profit for the producer. This study examined the effect on feeding behavior for pigs first housed in a grouped setting, then moved into an isolated environment. Feeding duration, feeding frequency and feeding bouts all increased in isolation (P< 0.0003, P< 0.005, P< 0.0007, respectively). Grouped big eaters moved into isolation spent less time eating per bout (P< 0.05) and instead, ate at faster rates than did the little eaters. Moreover, isolation of animals caused an overall increase in feeding since competition for food was no longer a factor with isolated pigs. Competition for food seemed to direct feeding behavior in this study.