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Can a super sow be a robust sow? Consequences of litter investment in purebred and crossbred sows of different parities

Lookup NU author(s): Emerita Professor Sandra Edwards


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The aim of this project was to study the consequences of litter investment on physical characteristics in primiparous and multiparous sows in 3 Norwegian breeds (Norsvin Duroc [n = 12], Norsvin Landrace [n = 12], and crossbreeds [Norsvin Landrace and Swedish Yorkshire {n = 15}]). We predicted that the maternal sow line (Norsvin Landrace) would invest more in their litter in term of higher weight at birth, resulting in a higher litter weight of weaned piglets but with the consequence of greater loss in body condition and a higher prevalence of shoulder lesions. It was predicted that this should be more pronounced in primiparous sows than in multiparous sows. As predicted, the maternal pure line (Norsvin Landrace) had higher litter investment in terms of litter weight at birth (P = 0.003) and litter weight at weaning (P = 0.050) as well as higher total litter investment (litter weight at weaning plus weight of dead piglets [stillborn and mummified piglets and weight of piglets that died after farrowing but before weaning]; P = 0.050) and suffered larger losses of body condition (P = 0.016) and had a higher prevalence of shoulder lesions (P = 0.008) during lactation than other breeds. Moreover, only in Norsvin Landrace was development of shoulder lesions related to inadequate feed consumption (P = 0.006). This has become a major welfare concern of modern pig breeding. Although primiparous and multiparous sows had similar litter sizes, primiparous sows had lower litter investment in terms of litter weight at birth (P = 0.032) and litter weight at weaning (P = 0.007) as well as total litter investment (P = 0.008). Primiparous sows suffered greater losses in body condition (P = 0.012) and developed more shoulder lesions (P = 0.026) due to lower total feed consumption (P < 0.001) during lactation than multiparous sows. Especially in the highly productive maternal line (Norsvin Landrace), development of shoulder lesions during the lactation period was more pronounced in primiparous sows than in multiparous sows (P < 0.001). The selection program has shifted the balance to greater investments in earlier life, when sows still need resources for their own growth and development. This has resulted in a larger number of weaned piglets but at a higher sow welfare cost in terms of higher losses in body condition and a higher prevalence of shoulder lesions. Our results pinpoint the importance of improving the balance between economic traits and traits that improve welfare and longevity of the sows.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Ocepek M, Andersen-Ranberg I, Edwards SA, Fredriksen B, Framstad T, Andersen IL

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Animal Science

Year: 2016

Volume: 94

Issue: 8

Pages: 3550-3560

Print publication date: 14/07/2016

Acceptance date: 11/05/2016

ISSN (print): 0021-8812

ISSN (electronic): 1525-3163

Publisher: American Society of Animal Science (ASAS)


DOI: 10.2527/jas2016-0386


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