Effect of Age at First Mating

on SPI

J.W. Mabry, M.S. Culbertson, J.K. Bertrand, and A.H. Nelson

Dept. of Animal and Dairy Science

University of Georgia

INTRODUCTION

The rate of genetic improvement is dependent upon use of tools which allow producers to accurately measure performance and estimate genetic merit. Traditionally, adjustment factors have been used to standardize performance records and better allow for isolation of the genetic component of observed variation. Current litter adjustment factors in the swine industry are provided by the National Swine Improvement Federation (NSIF, 1988) and are common to all breeds. Litter adjustments for the American Landrace and Yorkshire populations were updated by Brubaker et al. (1994) and were found to differ between breeds and from the NSIF factors.

Reproductive performance of a sow can be affected by many factors (Clark and Leman, 1986; Almond, 1992). Litter size can be affected by contemporary group (environment), parity, age at farrowing, previous lactation length, weaning to conception interval and genetic merit. Litter weight is influenced by these factors as well as the age at weaning and number weaned. Current adjustment factors were derived by accounting for the factor of interest, i.e. parity, and in some manner the environment. Other factors such as genetic merit and age at farrowing have been ignored. However, computing power and programs have advanced and now allow for inclusion in the model of nearly all of the components of variation simultaneously. The inclusion of these additional effects, including genetic merit, should greatly increase the accuracy of estimating adjustment factors.

Therefore, several objectives were involved in this study. First, the derivation of traditional and possibly new litter adjustment factors utilizing a more complete estimation model. Second, an analysis of the need for breed-specific adjustments for the major pure breeds of swine.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

Data

Duroc, Hampshire, Landrace and Yorkshire litter records were obtained from the National Swine Registry. Duroc, Hampshire, and Landrace data included all records collected up to May 1996 and Yorkshire data included all records collected up to November 1995. Data sets included identification, herd, birth date, and pedigree of the sow as well as contemporary group, farrowing date, number born alive (NBA), litter weaning weight (LWT), number weaned (NW), number after transfer (NAT), weaning date, and parity of the litter. Age at breeding to produce the litter record was calculated as farrowing date - birth date - 114 and weaning age of litter as weaning date - farrowing date. Editing was conducted to insure connectedness and complete records as well as to eliminate biological extremes. The number of records, contemporary groups, and dams as well as phenotypic means after editing are shown by breed in Table 1.


Table 1. Number of litter records, contemporary groups, and dams as well as phenotypic means for number born alive (NBA), 21-day litter weight (LWT), and number weaned (NW) for Duroc, Hampshire, Landrace, and Yorkshire swine


Duroc

Hampshire

Landrace

Yorkshire

No. of records

35063

49279

30521

163262

No. of cg

4819

5920

4353

21439

No. of dams

28730

33966

16528

96265

mean-NBA1

9.16

8.69

10.08

10.21

mean-LWT1

106.40

108.20

129.63

123.20

mean-NW1

8.10

7.94

9.16

9.08

1 Unadjusted mean.

Estimation method for adjustment factors

A mixed model reduced animal model program (Feng, 1995) which utilizes an iteration on data algorithm was used for simultaneous estimation of all genetic and non-genetic effects for NBA, LWT, and NW. Variance components used for the analysis were those currently utilized by the national genetic evaluation of each specific breed. The model for NBA included a direct genetic effect, an uncorrelated random permanent environmental effect and fixed effects of age and/or parity class and contemporary group. The model for LWT and NW included the above effects as well as the fixed effects of NAT and weaning age.

Age of dam at breeding was analyzed for possible influence on reproductive performance within parity 1 and parity 2 litter records. Initially, age classes within parities 1 and 2 were sub-divided into 10 day intervals. Multiple subsequent analysis runs were used to find the most appropriate class intervals, with additional care taken to insure an adequate sample size within all age classes.

For analysis of LWT and NW, solutions for weaning age were obtained for ages of 14 to 28 days. Multiplicative weaning age adjustments for LWT were then obtained for adjustment of litter weight to a 21-day base by dividing the solution for day of interest by the solution for 21-day weight.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

Reproductive performance can be influenced by many factors, including environment, parity, age at farrowing, lactation length, weaning to mating interval and genetic merit (Clark and Leman, 1986). However, due to computing limitations, genetic merit has not been previously included in the estimation procedures. Therefore, improvements in accuracy of the estimation procedures should be achieved by inclusion of genetic merit in the estimation model. Also, traditional adjustment factors have dealt primarily with those differences associated with parity. However, age at farrowing has been shown to account for significant variation in the litter records of younger sows (Brooks and Smith, 1980; Hughes, 1982; Culbertson and Mabry, 1995; Xue et al., 1996).

Production and economic efficiencies often lead producers to attempt to mate females at younger ages. The current adjustments do not differentiate between sows who conceive their initial litters at younger ages. Therefore, sows which possess the economic benefits of being able to reach puberty and to conceive at younger ages may have their genetic evaluation for reproductive traits biased downward. Consequently, the accurate identification of sires and herds of increased genetic merit should be increased using the new adjustments for NBA.

Adjustment factors, number of records within each class and current adjustments in the Duroc, Hampshire, Landrace, and Yorkshire populations for NBA are presented in Tables 2-5; respectively. Newly derived adjustment factors differ from those currently used as well as differ between breeds. In addition to the parity differences which follow the expected pattern, differences were found in parities 1 and 2 due to age of the sow at time of the litter record.

Table 2. Adjustment factors and numbers within class for number born alive (NBA) in Duroc swine


Parity

Age at Breeding

New Adjustment

Current Adjustment1

Number Within Class

1

<240 days

.98

1.5

3087

1

<330 days

.73

1.5

7789

1

>= 330 days

.55

1.5

1115

2

<365 days

.78

.9

713

2

<425 days

.37

.9

3466

2

<535 days

.08

.9

3074

2

>=535 days

.17

.9

733

3, 4


0

0

10206

5


.09

0

2506

6


.28

0

1286

>6


.67

0

1088

1 NSIF, 1988.

The pattern of these differences is in agreement with previous work (Sherritt, 1962; Strang, 1970; Clark and Leman, 1986) which shows an increase of .003 to .009 pigs per parity 1 litter per additional day of age of the sow at breeding. Duroc and Hampshire populations, compared to the current NSIF adjustments, were found to have, on average, smaller adjustments for the initial parities and larger adjustments for later parities. However, larger adjustments were also found for the younger females relative to the older females within parities 1 and 2. Landrace and Yorkshire adjustments for NBA were larger than the current adjustments derived by Brubaker et al. (1994). Again, age was found to be a highly important component of variation within parities 1 and 2 with adjustments for younger Yorkshire sows differing from older sows by almost 1 pig within parity 1 or 2.

Table 3. Adjustment factors and number within classes for number born alive in Hampshire swine


Parity

Age at Breeding

New Adjustment

Current Adjustment1

Number Within Class

1

<240 days

1.04

1.5

1970

1

<300 days

.84

1.5

8528

1

<330 days

.65

1.5

1951

1

>= 330 days

.49

1.5

2510

2

<395 days

.79

.9

1225

2

<425 days

.47

.9

2063

2

<485 days

.25

.9

4520

2

<565 days

0

.9

2124

2

>= 565 days

.18

.9

1219

3, 4


.08

.3, 0

14678

5


.2

0

3991

6, 7


.55

0

3421

>7


1.06

.4

1079

1 NSIF, 1988.

Table 4. Adjustment factors and numbers within class for number born alive in Landrace swine


Parity

Age at Breeding

New Adjustment

Current Adjustment1

Number Within Class

1

<240 days

1.10

.57

2028

1

<330 days

.73

.57

5034

1

<360 days

.45

.57

369

1

>= 360 days

.81

.57

657

2

<395 days

1.04

.29

1317

2

<425 days

.71

.29

1359

2

<485 days

.53

.29

1978

2

>=485 days

.23

.29

1461

3, 4, 5


0

0

11336

6


.09

.32

1926

7


.42

.64

1257

>7


.97

.84

1799

1 Brubaker et al., 1994.

Table 5. Adjustment factors and numbers within classes for number born alive in Yorkshire swine


Parity

Age at Breeding

New Adjustment

Current Adjustment1

Number Within Class

1

<210 days

1.46

.69

2511

1

<240 days

1.24

.69

11406

1

<270 days

.96

.69

16937

1

<300 days

.81

.69

9517

1

>=300 days

.57

.69

10082

2

<365 days

.99

.23

2377

2

<425 days

.60

.23

14507

2

<535 days

.18

.23

15474

2

>=535 days

0

.23

4144

3, 4, 5


0

0

60471

6


.34

.51

7584

7


.50

.77

4267

>7


.86

1.09

3985

1 Brubaker et al., 1994.

Parity and/or age adjustments for 21-day litter weight in Duroc, Hampshire, Landrace and Yorkshire are presented in Tables 6-9; respectively. Duroc and Hampshire adjustments were found to be larger in magnitude than those currently recommended by NSIF. Landrace and Yorkshire adjustments, on average, were found to be similar to the current adjustments. However, age of the sow contributed considerable variation to parity 1 litter records in all breeds with larger adjustments estimated for the younger females. Age of the sow at conception of the littter recordwas found to have decreasing importance in parity 2.

Table 6. Parity and age adjustment factors and number within classes for 21-day litter weight in Duroc swine


Parity

Age at Breeding

New Adjustment

Current Adjustment1

Number in Class

1

<210 days

13.2

6.5

719

1

<270 days

10.1

6.5

6718

1

<360 days

8.0

6.5

3873

1

>= 360 days

4.2

6.5

681

2


0

0

7986

3


1.1

0

6249

4


3.1

1.4

3957

5


6.4

3.3

2506

6


8.6

4.4

1286

>6


10.8

6, ...

1088

1 NSIF, 1988.

Table 7. Parity and age adjustments and number within classes for 21-day litter weight in Hampshire swine


Parity

Age at Breeding

New Adjustment

Current Adjustment1

Number in Class

1

<270 days

10.2

6.5

6867

1

<330 days

9.1

6.5

5582

1

>= 330 days

4.8

6.5

2477

2

<395 days

3.7

0

1225

2

>=395 days

1.0

0

9926

3, 4


0

0, 1.4

14678

5


1.1

3.3

3991

6


1.6

4.4

2234

7


4.1

6.0

1187

>7


5.0

8.6

1079

1 NSIF, 1988.


Table 8. Parity and age adjustments and number within classes for 21-day litter weight in Landrace swine


Parity

Age at Breeding

New Adjustment

Current Adjustment1

Number in Class

1

<240 days

14.0

10.06

2028

1

<300 days

10.9

10.06

4236

1

>=300 days

7.6

10.06

1824

2, 3


0

0, .19

11120

4, 5


1.2

1.78, 3.32

6331

6


5.7

7.03

1926

7


7.0

8.60

1257

>7


10.0

12.83

1799

1 Brubaker et al., 1994.

Table 9. Parity and age adjustments and number within classes for 21-day litter weight in Yorkshire swine.


Parity

Age at Breeding

New Adjustment

Current Adjustment1

Number in Class

1

<240 days

10.0

5.57

13917

1

<300 days

7.2

5.57

26454

1

>= 300 days

4.3

5.57

10082

2


0

0

36502

3


.5

1.22

28279

4


2.5

4.20

19228

5


4.7

6.83

12964

6


7.2

10.12

7584

7


9.2

12.53

4267

>7


11.8

15.96

3985

1 Brubaker et al., 1994.

Number after transfer and multiplicative weaning age adjustments for 21-day litter weight are presented in Tables 10 and 11; respectively. Adjustments for number after transfer and weaning age are in general agreement with the previous studies (NSIF, 1992; Brubaker et al., 1994) and relatively consistent across breed populations.

IMPLICATIONS

Accurate adjustments should standardize performance records across factors which are known to cause non-genetic variation. This study utilized a method of estimation which allowed for inclusion of genetic merit to better account for differences which affect reproductive performance in the sow herd. In addition, the effect of age of the sow at conception of parity 1 and parity 2 litter records was analyzed in the estimation procedure. Results from this study indicate that adjustment factors for number born alive and 21-day litter weight should include age of the sow to better standardize litter records and improve evaluation of the genetic merit, particularly of parity 1 and 2 litter records.

Table 10. Number after transfer (NAT) adjustments for 21-day litter weight in Duroc, Hampshire, Landrace and Yorkshire swine

NAT

Duroc

Hampshire

Landrace

Yorkshire

1,2

69.2

80.5

94.3

93.7

3

65.2

71.4

74.2

75.6

4

54.4

58.7

58.4

62.2

5

43.4

46.0

48.4

49.5

6

32.2

34.9

37.6

37.8

7

21.9

24.2

26.3

26.4

8

13.7

14.6

16.0

16.4

9

6.1

6.2

6.4

7.2

10 +

0

0

0

0


Table 11. Weaning age multiplicative adjustment factor for 21-day litter weight in Duroc, Hampshire, Landrace and Yorkshire swine

Weaning Age

Duroc

Hampshire

Landrace

Yorkshire

14

1.19

1.18

1.24

1.20

15

1.16

1.18

1.20

1.18

16

1.15

1.14

1.15

1.15

17

1.11

1.11

1.13

1.12

18

1.09

1.06

1.09

1.09

19

1.05

1.04

1.07

1.06

20

1.02

1.02

1.03

1.03

21

1.0

1.0

1.0

1.0

22

.97

.97

.96

.97

23

.93

.93

.93

.94

24

.90

.9

.90

.91

25

.86

.89

.87

.88

26

.82

.84

.84

.85

27

.79

.82

.83

.82

28

.77

.79

.79

.79


LITERATURE CITED

Almond, G.W., 1992. Factors affecting the reproductive performance of the weaned sow. Veterinary clinics of North America: Food Animal Practice 8:503-515.

Brooks, P.H., and D.A. Smith. 1980. The effect of mating age on the reproductive performance, food utilization and liveweight change of the female pig. Livest. Prod. Sci. 7: 67-78.

Clark, L.K., and A.D. Leman. 1986. Factors that influence litter size in pigs: Part 1. Pig News and Information 7.

Culbertson, M.S., and J.W. Mabry. 1995. Effect of age at first service on first parity and lifetime sow performance. J. Anim Sci 73 (Suppl. 1):6.

Brubaker, M., D. Lofgren, M. Einstein, and T. Stewart. 1994. Comparison of litter adjustment factors in Yorkshire and Landrace Data. J. Anim. Sci. 72:2538-2543.

Feng, X., and M.S. Culbertson. 1995. User's Guide: GRAMBLUP; General reduced animal model BLUP. University of Georgia, Athens.

Hughes, P.E. 1982. Factors affecting the natural attainment of pyberty in the gilt. In: D.J.A. Cole and G.R. Foxcroft (Ed.) Control of Pig Reproduction pp. 117-138. Butterworths, London.

NSIF. 1988. Appendix 2. Adjustment Factors. In: Guidelines for Uniform Swine Improvement Programs (Rev. Ed.). pp. 10-2, 10-3. National Pork Producers Council, Des Moines, IA.

SAS. 1988. SAS/STAT® User's Guide (Release 6.03 Ed.). SAS Inst. Inc., Cary, NC.

Sherritt, G.W. 1962. Some interrelations of productivity of the gilt with age of the gilt at farrowing. J. Anim Sci 21:140.

Strang, G.S. 1970. Litter productivity in Large White pigs 1. the relative importance of some sources of variation. Anim Prod 12:225-233.

Xue, J.L., G.D. Dial, W.E. Marsh, T. Lucia, and P. Bahnson. 1996. An association of gilt age at first mating with female productivity. J. Anim Sci 74 (Suppl. 1):248.


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