Impact of sow energy status during farrowing on farrowing kinetics, frequency of stillborn piglets, and farrowing assistance: Sow energy status and farrowing kinetics

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Farrowing duration is rather long in sows most likely due to selection for large litters, and we hypothesized that prolonged farrowings would compromise sow energy status during farrowing and in turn the farrowing process. Two studies were performed as follows: 1) to evaluate whether sow energy status during farrowing compromise the farrowing kinetics (FK, i.e., farrowing duration and birth intervals) and 2) to study the underlying mechanisms potentially affecting stillbirth rate and farrowing assistance. In study-1, parameters affecting FK were characterized based on data from a total of 166 farrowings from 7 feeding trials focused on sow colostrum production. The data were screened for associations with FK using the CORR procedure of SAS. Traits that were correlated with the FK at P < 0.05 were included in a multivariate regression model. Time since last meal until the onset of farrowing greatly affected the farrowing duration (r = 0.76; n = 166; P < 0.001) and a broken-line model was fitted to describe that relationship. According to the model, farrowing duration was constant (3.8 �} 1.5 h) if the farrowing started before the breakpoint (3.13 ± 0.34 h after the last meal), whereas farrowing duration increased to 9.3 h if the farrowing started 8 h after the last meal. Subsequently, sows were divided into 3 categories based on that trait (≤3, 3 to 6, and >6 h) to evaluate the impact on birth intervals, farrowing assistance, and stillbirth rate. Birth intervals (P < 0.001), odds for farrowing assistance (P < 0.001), and odds for stillbirth (P = 0.02) were low, intermediate, and high when time since last meal was ≤3, 3 to 6, and >6 h, respectively. In study-2, blood samples were collected once or twice each week in late gestation and each hour during farrowing to measure arterial concentrations and uterine extractions of plasma metabolites. Time since last meal was strongly negatively correlated with arterial glucose 1 h after the onset of farrowing (r= −0.96; n = 9; P < 0.001). Glucose appeared to be the key energy metabolite for oxidative metabolism of gravid uterus. In conclusion, the present study strongly suggests that a substantial proportion of sows suffer from low-energy status at the onset farrowing and that this negatively affects the farrowing process. Transferring this knowledge into practice, the results suggest that sows should be fed at least 3 daily meals in late gestation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number96
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Volume96
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)2320–2331
Number of pages12
ISSN0021-8812
DOIs
StatePublished - 4 Jun 2018

    Research areas

  • birth interval analysis, break-point analysis, farrowing duration, last meal, plasma glucose, stillbirth rate

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