Increasing feed efficiency in swine is important for increasing sustainable food production and profitability for producers; therefore, this is often selected for at breeding. Residual feed intake (RFI) can be used for the genetic selection of pigs for feed efficiency. In our selection project, low-RFI pigs consume less feed for equal weight gain compared to their less efficient, high-RFI counterparts. However, little is known about how feed efficiency influences the pig's behavioral reactivity toward fear-eliciting stimuli. In this study, behavioral reactivity of pigs divergently selected for RFI was evaluated using human approach- (HAT) and novel object tests (NOT). Forty low-RFI (more feed efficient) and 40 high-RFI (less feed efficient) castrated male pigs (barrows; 46.5 ± 8.6 kg) from 8th generation Yorkshire RFI selection lines were randomly selected and evaluated once using HAT and once using NOT over a four week period utilizing a crossover experimental design. Each pig was individually tested within a 4.9 × 2.4 m test arena for 10 min; behavior was evaluated using live and video observations. The test arena floor was divided into four zones; zone 1 being oral, nasal, and/or facial contact with the human (HAT) or orange traffic cone (NOT) and zone 4 being furthest from the human or cone and included the point where the pig entered the arena. During both HAT and NOT, low-RFI pigs crossed fewer zones (P < 0.0001), had fewer head movements (P ≤ 0.02), defecated less frequently (P ≤ 0.03), displayed a shorter duration of freezing (P = 0.05), and froze less frequently (HAT: low-RFI = 4.9 ± 0.65 vs. high-RFI = 7.5 ± 0.96; NOT: low-RFI = 4.7 ± 0.66 vs. high-RFI = 7.2 ± 0.96; P < 0.0001) compared to high-RFI pigs. During HAT, low-RFI pigs also attempted to escape less frequently (low-RFI = 0.4 ± 0.14 vs. high-RFI = 1.1 ± 0.30; P = 0.001) compared to high-RFI pigs. In contrast, compared to the high-RFI pigs, low-RFI pigs took 48 s longer during HAT and 52 s longer during NOT to approach zone 1 (P ≤ 0.04). These results indicate that low-RFI pigs had decreased behavioral reactivity during HAT and NOT compared to high-RFI pigs. This may suggest that reducing a pig's behavioral reactivity is an important component of improving feed efficiency; however, it may have implications for animal handling and facility design.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/anna_butters-johnson/77/