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Once small always small? To what extent morphometric characteristics and post-weaning starter regime affect pig lifetime growth performance

Lookup NU author(s): Anne Huting, Dr Panagiotis Sakkas, Professor Ilias Kyriazakis



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


The aim of this study was to determine the effect of piglet morphometric characteristics and starter regime on postnatal growth. Some piglets born light are able to grow faster than others and identifying which piglets are more at risk to remain light and at which growth stages of growth is essential. A nutrient enriched starter regime may allow lightweight pigs to improve their post-weaning growth. A total 1487 newly born piglets from 137 litters originating from 8 consecutive farrowing batches were followed from birth (BiW) to weaning (WW, d28) and finishing (d99). At birth morphometric measurements were taken, including body mass index (BMI), ponderal index (PI) and BiW:cranial circumferences (BiW:CC). At weaning pigs were randomly allocated to the one of two experimental regimes: either a nutrient enriched regime with a 20% higher essential amino acids (EAA): energy ratio (HIGH) or a standard regime (CTRL). Piglets were retrospectively allocated to 4 different weight classes (C) using percentiles at birth, weaning and finishing, with C1 representing the lightest and C4 the heaviest class. A series of novel statistical models were used to determine which factors were able to predict performance. For BiW C1 piglets, BMI (P=0.003) and BiW relative to birth litter (P=0.026) were positively associated with pre-weaning performance, whereas BiW:CC (P=0.011) and WW (P=0.001) were positively associated with post-weaning growth. Post-weaning the best predictors of piglets weaned light (WW C1) were PI (P=0.037), BiW:CC (P<0.001) and WW (P<0.001). Starter regime did not influence (P>0.05) post-weaning performance. Our results show that not all light pigs are the same and that their performance is under the influence of body shape rather than BiW. Therefore, pig producers should discriminate between light pigs based on birth characteristics to improve the effectiveness of intervention strategies at the different stages of growth. Irrespective of weight class piglets did not benefit from the EAA enriched regime applied.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Huting AMS, Sakkas P, Wellock I, Almond K, Kyriazakis I

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Porcine Health Management

Year: 2018

Volume: 4

Online publication date: 23/07/2018

Acceptance date: 27/06/2018

Date deposited: 17/07/2018

ISSN (electronic): 2055-5660

Publisher: BioMed Central Ltd.


DOI: 10.1186/s40813-018-0098-1


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Funder referenceFunder name
Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board