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The effects of maternal dietary supplementation during late gestation on the growth performance and endocrine profile of the neonatal pig

Presented at the Neonatal Society 2002 Summer Meeting (programme).

Perkins KS, Litten JC, Emery J, Clarke L

Department of Agricultural Sciences, Imperial College at Wye, University of London, Wye, Ashford, Kent, TN25 5AH, UK.

Introduction: Early nutrition of the neonatal pig has a major impact on its survival and subsequent development (1). The objective of the study was to investigate the effects of maternal dietary supplementation during late gestation on the growth performance and endocrine profile of the neonatal pig.

Methods: Twenty-one pregnant sows were randomly allocated to three treatment groups. They were offered either the standard diet (S: 3kg of Pigbreed Pioneer Pellets, BOCM: 12.4 MJ/kg, 3% fat) or the standard diet plus 30% extra energy derived from either excess pellets (E) or palm oil (PO) from day 85 of gestation. Following parturition, piglets were reared with their mother but had access to a separate creep area; piglets were cross-fostered to equalise the litter size. During the period of lactation (0-28 d), sows were fed 3-9 kg/d concentrate (Pigbreed Ultimate Pellets, BOCM: 13.6 MJ/kg, 6% fat). Individual piglet body weight was measured within 24 h of birth and at 7, 14 and 21 d of neonatal life. A blood sample was taken from 2 piglets per litter on day 3 and 21 of life and analysed for plasma concentrations of glucose, thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) using RIA and insulin by ELISA. A General Linear Model, ANOVA, was used to assess differences between the groups.

Results: Supplementing the maternal diet with excess pellets increased (P<0.05) average piglet birth weight (S 1.77±0.05: E 1.87±0.04: PO 1.62±0.04: kg, mean±SEM) whereas palm oil decreased it (P<0.01). Growth rate over the first 3 weeks of life was only enhanced (P<0.01) in the E group (S 287±14: E 343±15: PO 275±25: g/d). Plasma glucose concentration was elevated (P<0.05) at 3 d of life only in the PO group (Table 1). Supplementing the maternal diet with extra energy during the last month of pregnancy resulted in higher circulating concentrations of thyroid hormones (P<0.05) on day 3 of life. By day 21 of neonatal life, plasma glucose and thyroid hormones increased only in the control group. Irrespective of maternal diet, insulin concentrations were similar on day 3 of life and declined (P<0.05) during the neonatal period in the S and PO piglets but were maintained in the E group.

Table 1. Neonatal endocrine profile on day 3 and 21 of neonatal life

 Values are means ± SE

Conclusion: It is concluded that the maternal diet during late gestation can have a pronounced influence on the growth and development of the newborn piglet, which can be further modified by the type of maternal dietary supplementation. It is likely that the differences in the physical development of the piglet are in part due to alterations in their endocrine profiles.
Acknowledgements The work was funded by DEFRA and Cotswold Pig Development Company. J.C.L. also wishes to thank Wye College for the provision of a PhD studentship.

Cieslak, D.G., Leibbrandt, V.D. and Benevenga, N.J. Journal of Animal Science. 1983, 57:955-959.

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