The influence of the thermal environment and other early life events on growth rate of piglets during lactation

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The effects of early life events on average daily weight gain from birth to day 21 (ADG) of suckling pigs kept at different room temperatures (15°C, 20°C and 25°C) from birth to weaning were investigated. Data were collected from litters born by 61 sows in a loose housing system. The ADG for piglets with low birth weight (estimated for birth weights below the 10% percentile) was estimated to be 20 to 30 g higher per day at room temperature 20°C to 25°C compared with 15°C. In contrast, the ADG during the lactation period decreased for larger piglets (estimated for birth weights above the 10% percentile) by 28 g/day at room temperature 25°C compared with 15°C. Thus, high ambient temperatures (20°C to 25°C) are favourable for the growth in smaller piglets during lactation. Neither latency to first suckle nor birth-induced hypoxia, measured as concentration of umbilical cord lactate, affected the growth rate of the piglets. Lowest rectal temperature during the first 24 h after birth had a long-term negative effect on ADG (P<0.05), so that piglets with a lowest rectal temperature of 32.8°C (10% percentile) had an ADG which was on average 19 g lower per day than piglets with a rectal temperature of 37.3°C (90% percentile). Our results showed that hypothermia at birth, low birth weight and high number of suckling piglets lead to reduced ADG during the suckling period. The results suggest that keeping the room temperature at 20°C during lactation to some extent could compensate for the otherwise negative effects of low birth weight on ADG in piglets without decreasing the ADG of high birth weight piglets. However, to avoid hypothermia in the smallest piglets it may be beneficial to increase the room temperature above 20°C during the farrowing period of loose housed sows.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1529-1535
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jun 2015

    Research areas

  • piglets, hypothermia, birth weight, ADG: average daily weight gain, loose housing

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