In commercial pig breeding farms, boars are often exposed to stressful situations, such as individual housing, inadequate ambient temperature, food restriction, lack of social interaction, illness, among others. The consequences of such stressful situations for the welfare of the breeding animals and possible impacts in the quality of the semen are unknown. Recent research indicated that epigenetic effects in semen are responsible for changes in the metabolism and behaviour of the offspring, including for subsequent generations, thus modulating the resilience of the animals and, consequently, their welfare. Small non-coding RNAs population and DNA methylation in semen are our study targets because they represent the possible mechanisms to explain hereditary outcomes on behavioural and physiological modulation, previously reported. Most studies on mammalian foetal programming have been conducted in females because they play an extremely important role in modulating the mechanisms of foetal adaptation. Our research group and many others demonstrated that the prenatal and neonatal period may influence the behaviour and physiology modulating offspring resilience. The male is an interesting model, as it does not have such intimate interaction with the offspring, so any transmitted changes come through their germ cells or the semen fluid content. The pig is an extremely useful model of study paternal impact on the offspring, because its physiology is very similar to humans and they produce large litters. The aim of this project is to measure the impact of different housing conditions, conventional crates, pens and environmental enriched pen, on behavioural parameters and molecular seminal features of breeding boars.
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