Impact of selection for birth weight variability on reproductive longevity: A mice model

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Uniformity, understood as a similar performance in relevant livestock traits, such as birth weight within the litter, is being included as one of the selection objectives in breeding programmes, especially for polytocous livestock species. A divergent selection experiment for birth weight within-litter variability in mice during 23 generations showed that homogeneous animals were better for litter size, survival and feed efficiency but less heavy than heterogeneous animals. The aim of this study was to compare the reproductive longevity in both divergent lines as time to the end of the reproductive period. Two generations from both lines with an initial number of 43 females and 43 males were mated one to one and stayed together to have consecutive parturitions until the end of the reproductive life. Females were discarded when the time elapsed from the last parturition was longer than 63 days. The time to the end of the reproductive period between both lines was compared by fitting a Cox proportional hazard regression model adjusting for line, generation and its interaction. The rate of parturitions in both lines was also compared using a Prentice–Williams–Peterson model adjusted for the same effects. The low variability line was associated with a higher parturition rate, e.g., adjusted hazard ratio was 2.93 (95% CI 2.17–3.94). The Cox model showed that the low variability females also presented benefits of time to the end of the reproductive period, with an adjusted hazard ratio of 0.26 (95% CI 0.16–0.41). The median of reproductive days was 55.50 in the high variability line whilst the median was 252.50 daysforthe low variability females. The homogeneous line presented important reproductive advantages suggesting higher robustness and animal welfare. Further research should confirm whether the findings presented here of a better performance in the low variability line could be properly applied to some livestock species.
CRUE-CSIC (Acuerdos Transformativos 2022)