Consequences of a low litter birth weight phenotype for postnatal lean growth performance and neonatal testicular morphology in the pig

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  • The consequences of a low litter average birth weight phenotype for postnatal growth performance and carcass quality of all progeny, and testicular development in male offspring, were investigated. Using data from 25 sows with one, and 223 sows with two consecutive farrowing events, individual birth weight (BW) was measured and each litter between 9 and 16 total pigs born was classified as low (LBW), medium (MBW) or high (HBW) birth weight: low and high BW being defined as >1 standard deviation below or above, respectively, the population mean for each litter size. Litter average BW was repeatable within sows. At castration, testicular tissue was collected from 40 male pigs in LBW and HBW litters with individual BW close to their litter average BW and used for histomorphometric analysis. LBW piglets had a lower absolute number of germ cells, Sertoli cells and Leydig cells in their testes and a higher brain : testis weight ratio than HBW piglets. Overall, LBW litters had lower placental weight and higher brain : liver, brain : intestine and brain : Semitendinosus muscle weight ratios than MBW and HBW litters. In the nursery and grow–finish (GF) phase, pigs were kept in pens by BW classification (9 HBW, 17 MBW and 10 LBW pens) with 13 males and 13 females per pen. Average daily gain tended to be lower in LBW than HBW litters in lactation (P = 0.06) and throughout the nursery and GF phases (P < 0.01), resulting in an increasing difference in body weight between LBW, MBW and HBW litters (P < 0.05). Average daily feed intake was lower (P < 0.001) in LBW than HBW litters in the nursery and GF phases. Feed utilization efficiency (feed/gain) was similar for LBW and HBW litters in the nursery, but was lower (P < 0.001) in HBW than LBW litters in the GF phase. By design, slaughter weight was similar between BW classifications; however, LBW litters needed 9 more days to reach the same slaughter weight than HBW litters (P < 0.001). BW classification did not affect carcass composition traits. In conclusion, LBW litters showed benchmarks of intrauterine growth retardation, LBW had a negative impact on testicular development and germ and somatic cell populations, and was associated with decreased postnatal growth during all phases of production; however, no measurable effect on carcass composition traits was established.

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    © The Animal Consortium 2013
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    • Smit, M. N., Spencer, J. D., Almeida, F. R., Patterson, J. L., Chiarini-Garcia, H., Dyck, M. K., & Foxcroft, G. R. (2013). Consequences of a low litter birth weight phenotype for postnatal lean growth performance and neonatal testicular morphology in the pig. Animal, 7(10), 1681-1689.
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