Direct selection for litter size or weight at weaning in pigs is often hindered by external interventions such as cross-fostering. The objective of this study was to infer the causal structure among phenotypes of reproductive traits in pigs to enable subsequent direct selection for these traits. Examined traits included: number born alive (NBA), litter size on day 21 (LS21), and litter weight on day 21 (LW21). The study included 6,240 litters from 1,673 Landrace dams and 5,393 litters from 1,484 Large White dams. The inductive causation (IC) algorithm was used to infer the causal structure, which was then fitted to a structural equation model (SEM) to estimate causal coefficients and genetic parameters. Based on the IC algorithm and temporal and biological information, the causal structure among traits was identified as: NBA → LS21 → LW21 and NBA → LW21. Owing to the causal effect of NBA on LS21 and LW21, the genetic, permanent environmental, and residual variances of LS21 and LW21were much lower in the SEM than in the multiple-trait model for both breeds. Given the strong effect of NBA on LS21 and LW21, the SEM and causal information might assist with selective breeding for LS21 and LW21 when cross-fostering occurs.
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