Using conventional measurements of lifetime, it is not possible to differentiate between productive and non-productive days during a sow's lifetime and this can lead to estimated breeding values favoring less productive animals. By rescaling the time axis from continuous to several discrete classes, grouped survival data (discrete survival time) models can be used instead.
The productive life length of 12319 Large White and 9833 Landrace sows was analyzed with continuous scale and grouped data models. Random effect of herd*year, fixed effects of interaction between parity and relative number of piglets, age at first farrowing and annual herd size change were included in the analysis. The genetic component was estimated from sire, sire-maternal grandsire, sire-dam, sire-maternal grandsire and animal models, and the heritabilities computed for each model type in both breeds.
If age at first farrowing was under 43 weeks or above 60 weeks, the risk of culling sows increased. An interaction between parity and relative litter size was observed, expressed by limited culling during first parity and severe risk increase of culling sows having small litters later in life. In the Landrace breed, heritabilities ranged between 0.05 and 0.08 (s.e. 0.014-0.020) for the continuous and between 0.07 and 0.11 (s.e. 0.016-0.023) for the grouped data models, and in the Large White breed, they ranged between 0.08 and 0.14 (s.e. 0.012-0.026) for the continuous and between 0.08 and 0.13 (s.e. 0.012-0.025) for the grouped data models.
Heritabilities for length of productive life were similar with continuous time and grouped data models in both breeds. Based on these results and because grouped data models better reflect the economical needs in meat animals, we conclude that grouped data models are more appropriate in pig.