Impact of feeding low and average birthweight pigs on a weight basis post-weaning on growth performance and body composition

This study aimed to investigate the effectiveness of employing a targeted nutritional regime until slaughter to maintain performance in animals recording high weaning weights. Low birthweight (Low BW; <1 kg) and average birthweight (Av BW; 1.3kg-1.7 kg) pigs were reared on sows exhibiting a high lactation feed intake and, as a result, weaning weights were 7.9 kg and 8.9 kg respectively. Pens containing either Low BW or Av BW animals were then offered either a ‘standard’ (STAND) or ‘feed-to-weight’ (FTW) regime from weaning until slaughter. The STAND regime was reflective of commercial production, where diet transitions were implemented after pre-determined feed levels or time intervals had been reached. In contrast, diet transitions in the FTW regime were carried out when target pen average weights of 12 kg, 18 kg, 22 kg, 45 kg and 75 kg respectively were met. Animal growth, feeding performance and body composition were monitored from weaning until slaughter. As expected, Av BW pigs were heavier than Low BW animals throughout (P<0.001), recording a superior average daily gain (ADG) (P<0.01) and average daily feed intake (ADFI) (P<0.001) at each stage of growth. This resulted in Av BW animals recording a greater carcass weight (P<0.001) and kill-out percentage (P<0.01). DEXA scan analysis showed Low BW animals to exhibit a greater percentage fat (P<0.001) and lower percentage lean (P<0.01) content at week 4 and 10 of age, however birthweight had no effect on these parameters at week 21 (P>0.05). Feeding regime did not affect age or weight at diet transition for Av BW animals for most transitions (P>0.05). However Low BW animals offered the FTW regime were significantly older and heavier than those offered the STAND regime at each transition (P<0.05). The FTW regime increased animal ADG and ADFI compared to STAND pigs from weeks 4 to 10 of age (P<0.05), whilst providing a greater average daily intake of energy and lysine from week 4 to 10 (P<0.05) and week 10 to 17 (P<0.05). This facilitated a greater liveweight in FTW animals from 7 weeks of age through to slaughter (P<0.05). Feeding regime had no effect on kill-out percentage or back-fat depth (P>0.05). Furthermore, DEXA scan results showed total or percentage lean and fat did not differ for FTW or STAND pigs at 10 or 21 weeks of age (P>0.05). In conclusion, feeding Low BW animals on a ‘feed to weight’ basis improved nutrient intake and animal liveweight, likely due to a greater time allowance for digestive development between diet transitions. As such, this approach should be considered for commercial adoption.
Publication history: Accepted - 28 August 2020; Published online - 29 August 2020
Body composition, Feed intake, Growth, Low birthweight, Piglet, Weaning
Hawe, S. J., Scollan, N., Gordon, A., Muns, R. and Magowan, E. (2020) ‘Impact of feeding low and average birthweight pigs on a weight basis post-weaning on growth performance and body composition’, Livestock Science. Elsevier BV, 241, p. 104233. doi: 10.1016/j.livsci.2020.104233.