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Modelling tool could predict pig development

Computer models will be developed to forecast how different pigs grow in diverse conditions.

Researchers will combine genomic and growth models to predict pig development.

Researchers will integrate biological models of nutritional and environmental effects on pig growth with existing gene-based models, in a development that could help farmers produce genetically improved livestock.

The study will allow breeders to better predict the genetics that underpin individual animals’ ability to grow under different environmental conditions.

Led by the Department of Animal Science at Iowa State University and co-led by the Roslin Institute, the study has received a US$500,000 grant from the US National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Genomics and growth models

Researchers will combine existing models of the function and structure of the genetic makeup of pigs – known as genomic models – with models of growth that have been developed by animal nutritionists and used to formulate diets for pigs.

The team will use data on feed intake, body weights and body composition of pigs from a commercial breeding company.

The model will be validated using this data to demonstrate its ability to improve prediction of pig growth under different temperatures, humidity levels, diets and diseases.

Existing genomic models often fail to predict how the offspring of an animal will develop under diverse conditions. By integrating growth models from animal nutritionists with existing models, and using real data from pigs, we hope that our model will help farmers predict how pigs will grow in a range of environments.

Andrea Doeschl-WilsonDeputy Head of Genetics and Genomics Division, the Roslin Institute

The idea to incorporate a biological growth model into genomic evaluation of pigs is based on similar work that has been conducted by scientists at Corteva, formerly Pioneer, who have successfully integrated crop-growth models into genomic evaluation to predict the performance of corn hybrids under normal versus drought conditions.

Jack DekkersDistinguished Professor, Department of Animal Science at Iowa State University

** The Roslin Institute receives strategic investment funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and it is part of the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. **

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