Feed efficiency measurements are based on the performance of pigs in a controlled test station environment with an automatic feeding system. During the test period, a large amount of feeding-related information, including time entering the feeder, time leaving the feeder and amount of feed consumed, are gathered. These data can be used to form different feeding behaviour traits such as daily feed intake or feed intake per visit. During the test period, pigs are group housed. Therefore, social behaviour between pen mates may affect feeding behaviour, production traits and welfare of other pen mates. Furthermore, unusual or radical changes in pigs’ behaviour can be a sign of diseases or discomfort and can be used for the detection of diseases for timely intervention.
The first aim of Kavlak’s thesis was to estimate the heritability of feeding behaviour traits and their correlation with production traits in the Finnish Yorkshire pig population. The second aim was to estimate genetic parameters of feeding behaviour and production traits in Finnish pig breeds using a model with a social genetic effect. The third aim was to develop machine learning methods for detection of pigs that may need medical treatment or extra management based on changes in their feeding behaviour patterns. The data consisted of purebred Finnish Yorkshire and Finnish Landrace pigs and their F1-crosses. Pigs were raised in a controlled test station environment located in Längelmäki, Finland (Figen Oy). The analyses were performed using feeding behaviour, production, sickness and pedigree data.
The results indicated that the feeding behaviour traits are moderately inherited but their correlation with production traits are weak; thus, feeding behaviour traits are not important in breeding programs. The social genetic component was important in feeding behaviour traits but also in the feed conversion rate; thus, applying social genetic effects in breeding value estimation would increase the accuracy of selection for the feed conversion rate. Predictions based on changes in feeding behaviour can help in the detection of sick pigs, leading to better pig welfare and increased sustainability of pork production.
The findings of Alper Tuna Kavlak’s thesis can be utilized for at least as an auxiliary trait in genetic evaluation of pigs for production traits. Social breeding values can be utilised in selection programmes to improve the direct performance of the progeny and improve the social effects of the progeny towards pen mates that can be preferred over the traditional direct breeding values. Lastly, the developed prediction method can be used to detect possible health problems based on changes in feeding behaviour traits.
MSc Alper Tuna Kavlak will defend his doctoral dissertation entitled "The genetic parameters of feeding behaviour and production traits, social interaction and disease control in Finnish pigs" on 19th August 2022 at 13.00 in the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Helsinki. The public defense will take place in Laboratory Building, Room 131, Koetilantie 5. Dr. Wendy Mercedes Rauw from The National Institute for Agricultural and Food Research and Technology (INIA, Spain) will serve as the opponent and Professor Pekka Uimari as the custos. The dissertation is published in the series Dissertationes Schola Doctoralis Scientiae Circumiectalis, Alimentariae, Biologicae. The dissertation is available at Helda.