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Impact of litter size, supplementary milk replacer and housing on the body composition of piglets from hyper-prolific sows at weaning

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The modern hyper-prolific sow gives birth to 17 live-born piglets on average. An alternative strategy to nurse sows and artificial rearing may be providing milk replacer while letting all the piglets stay with their dam. However, milk replacer is of lower nutritional quality than sow milk and may reduce the body fat content of piglets who use milk replacer to compensate for low suckling success due to competition at the udder. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate the body composition at weaning of two random sow-reared piglets per litter from 93 litters by using the deuterium oxide dilution technique. The piglets were part of large study with a 2×2×2 factorial design of either 14 or 17 piglets from day 1 (LS: LS14/LS17) with or without access to milk replacer (MILK: -MILK/+MILK) and reared by crated or loose-housed sows (HOUSING: CRATE/ LOOSE). From behavioral observations day 21 in +MILK, piglets were divided according to their frequency of drinking milk replacer and suckling (Nutrition Source). Increasing LS from 14 to 17 reduced the average daily gain from 258 to 228 g/d and body fat % from 14.4 to 12.7% (P<0.01). In a two-way interaction between LS and HOUSNG, the body fat percentage was lower (P=0.04) and the water percentage tended to be higher (P=0.07) in LS17 CRATE compared to the other treatments (i.e. LS17 LOOSE, LS14 CRATE and LOOSE). There was no effect of MILK on piglet composition day 28 (P>0.1). In +MILK, the Nutrition Source affected piglet body composition (P<0.05) as piglets with low suckling frequency (LOW) had lower body fat and higher water content compared to piglets who had high suckling frequency (SUCKLE). Unexpectedly, drinking milk replacer in addition to suckling (MIXED) did not increase piglet body fat content. Relying mainly on milk replacer (CUP) caused body fat and water contents to be intermediate to piglets with high (SUCKLE and MIXED) and low suckling frequency (LOW). In conclusion, LS had a clear impact on piglet growth and body composition at weaning. In contrast, supplementation of milk and housing had only negligible impact on litter performance. Some individual piglets that had low frequency of sow milk intake benefitted from milk supplementation. Loose housing appeared to benefit piglet body fat at weaning but this was due to a greater piglet mortality.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100007
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

    Research areas

  • Body fat, Management, Nutrition source, Milk supplementation, Surplus piglets

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