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Identification of risk factors associated with poor lifetime growth performance in pigs

Lookup NU author(s): Sadie Douglas, Emerita Professor Sandra Edwards, Professor Ilias Kyriazakis


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During the production period from birth to slaughter there are some pigs that grow markedly slower, despite conditions that seem to support the growth of their contemporaries. This reduction in growth inevitably leads to weight variation within a group, causes difficulties with management, and results in system inefficiencies. By understanding the factors that contribute to poor growth, the performance of these slow growing pigs might be improved, thereby decreasing the overall variability at slaughter. The aim of this paper was to analyze the factors associated with poor growth performance in pigs from birth to slaughter, determine the effect of piglet birth weight (BiW) and weaning weight (WW) on lifetime growth, and investigate the capacity of small piglets to compensate for any BW deficit. Two industry databases, with individual data for approximately 40,000 and 90,000 pigs, respectively, and containing BW profiles and relevant variables, were analyzed. Body weight at birth, weaning, intermediate, and finishing stages were available as well as sex, month of birth, litter size information (number born alive and total born including still born), sow parity number, and length of gestation. Absolute and relative growth rates, based on adjusted BW for age, were calculated for each time interval and 3 types of analysis were performed: a logistic regression, a continuous linear plateau model, and a weight category analysis. For both datasets poor absolute and relative growth from birth to final BW was associated with low BiW (P < 0.001), low WW (P < 0.001), sex (P < 0.001), breed code (P < 0.001), and month of birth (P < 0.001). The linear plateau model suggested that the relationship between BiW and lifetime growth was not linear beyond 1.91 (database 1) or 1.84 (database 2) kg; the same applied to the relationship between WW at 21 d and final BW (FW) growth, which was not linear beyond 7.53 kg. Finally, the weight category analysis revealed that piglets with the lightest BiW were able to exhibit compensatory growth from BiW to FW with 74 (database 1) and 82% (database 2) moving at least 1 BW category. It is concluded that growth performance to slaughter is not solely reliant on pig BiW, with WW also playing a critical role. Additionally, piglets with BiW below the average are capable of some degree of compensatory growth; this provides the opportunity for managing them so as to improve their lifetime growth.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Douglas SL, Edwards SA, Sutcliffe E, Knap PW, Kyriazakis I

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Animal Science

Year: 2013

Volume: 91

Issue: 9

Pages: 4123-4132

Print publication date: 03/07/2013

ISSN (print): 0021-8812

ISSN (electronic): 1525-3163

Publisher: American Society of Animal Science


DOI: 10.2527/jas.2012-5915


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