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Birth weight and postnatal dietary protein level affect performance, muscle metabolism and meat quality in pigs

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  • P.M. Nissen, Denmark
  • N. Oksbjerg, Denmark
Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), resulting in low birth body weight (LBW) occurs naturally in pigs. However, IUGR may also cause persistent changes in physiology and metabolism resulting in poorer performance, organogenesis and meat quality. As IUGR pigs have a lower daily gain from birth to slaughter they may differ in utilization of nutrients and requirements for dietary protein compared with their larger littermates. Thus, the objective in this study was to examine the interaction between birth body weight (BW) and the postnatal dietary protein level, in relation to postnatal performance, organogenesis, muscle metabolism and meat quality. The experiment was carried out with offspring from 16 purebred Danish Landrace gilts mated to Danish Landrace boars. The female and entire male pigs with LBW that survived at weaning were compared with the female and male pigs with the highest/high birth body weight (HBW) within each litter. The offspring were reared individually from weaning and were fed ad libitum a diet containing either a normal level of protein (NP) for optimal growth or an isocaloric diet containing a 30% lower protein content (LP) from 3 weeks to 150 days of age. At slaughter, we found no interactions between birth weight group and dietary protein level for any of the measured traits. The relative crown-rump length (cm/kg) at birth indicates that LBW pigs were thinner than HBW pigs. Daily gain and feed intake were reduced by 14% and 10%, respectively, while the kg feed/kg gain was slightly increased by 3% in LBW pigs compared with HBW pigs. The LP diet reduced daily gain by 27% due to reduced feed intake and increased kg feed/kg gain by 12% and 21%, respectively compared with the NP diet. LBW male pigs produced meat with a higher shear force than male HBW pigs and also LP pigs produced meat with higher shear force than NP pigs. The activity of lactate dehydrogenase in the Longissimus dorsi muscle (LD) was reduced in pigs fed the LP diet. Calpastatin was increased in LD of LBW pigs and decreased in pigs fed the NP diet. In conclusion, these results suggest a rejection of our hypothesis that low birth weight littermates have a lower requirement for dietary protein compared with heavy weight littermates. Furthermore, LBW male pigs and LP fed pigs of both genders produced less tender meat than HBW pigs or NP fed pigs, respectively.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1382-1389
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2011

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