WG1 will focus on links between the expression
of damaging behaviour, and genetics.
The objectives of WG1 are to coordinate research and share knowledge aimed at developing novel methods for phenotyping and genotyping for damaging behaviour and health traits, and to coordinate, share and apply research aimed at mapping transgenerational epigenetic consequences of early life experiences, with a focus on improving social behaviour and adaptive capacity.
Pigs: The group will coordinate and share knowledge related to development of genetic methods to select for increased disease resistance, and reduced aggression and tail biting by identifying molecular and phenotypic markers. It will also do the same for research aimed at developing behavioural, physiological and/or molecular tools to identify tail biters or pigs that are predisposed to be bitten, for use in new commercial breeding programmes and on-farm prevention programmes.
Laying hens: The group will share and apply research aimed at mapping transgenerational epigenetic consequences of early life experiences with a focus on improving social behaviour and adaptive capacity.
WG1 will also coordinate ongoing research aimed at investigating the potential of novel breeding strategies targeting indirect, or social, genetic effects to reduce aggression and tail biting in pigs, and thereby improve group performance. Positive social interactions and exposure to a complex environment appear to have a stress buffering effect, which is accompanied by corresponding epigenetic changes in tissue from pigs and poultry, and in nucleated red blood cells from laying hens. The group will aim to identify less invasive blood-based epigenetic markers of stress, which have potential uses in monitoring welfare status and as molecular markers of robustness.