Effect of gestating sow body condition, feed refusals, and group housing on growth and feed intake in grower-finishing pigs

E.B. Sell-Kubiak, E.H. van der Waaij, P. Bijma

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The main focus of this study was to identify sow gestation features that affect growth rate (GR) and feed intake (FI) of their offspring during grower–finishing stage. Because the sow provides a specific environment to her offspring during gestation, certain features (e.g., BW of the sow), feed refusals or gestation group, may affect her ability to deliver and feed a healthy litter. Data on 17,743 grower–finishing pigs, coming from 604 sires and 681 crossbred sows, were obtained from the Institute for Pigs Genetics. Sow gestation features were collected during multiple gestations and divided into 3 clusters describing i) sow body condition (i.e., BW, backfat, and gestation length), ii) sow feed refusals (FR), the difference between offered and eaten feed during 3 periods of gestation: 1 to 28, 25 to 50, 45 to 80 d, and iii) sow group features (i.e., number of sows, and average parity). Sow gestation features were added to the base model 1 at a time to study their effect on GR and FI. Significant gestation features (P <0.1) were fitted simultaneously in animal model to investigate whether they could explain common litter and permanent sow effects. Gestation length had effect on GR [1.4 (g/d)/d; P = 0.04] and FI [6.8 (g/d)/d; P = 0.007]. Body weights of the sow at insemination [0.07 (g/d)/kg; P = 0.08], at farrowing [0.14 (g/d)/kg; P <0.0001], and after lactation [0.1 (g/d)/kg; P = 0.003] had effect on GR. Sow parturition–lactation loss in backfat thickness and weight were not significant for GR and FI. Days with FR during 25 to 50 and 45 to 80 d of gestation and average FR during 45 to 80 d of gestation had negative effect on GR and when substantially increased had also a positive effect on FI. Sow FR from 1 to 28 d of gestation were not significant. Number of sows in gestation group had effect on FI [–9 (g/d)/group member; P = 0.04] and day sow entered group had an effect on GR [–0.9 (g/d)/day; P = 0.04]. Sow gestation features explained 1 to 3% of the total variance in grower–finishing pigs. Gestation features did explain phenotypic variance due to permanent sow and part of phenotypic variance due to common litter effects for FI but not for GR.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3538-3548
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • muscle-fiber number
  • group-housed sows
  • genetic-parameters
  • postnatal-growth
  • birth-weight
  • meat quality
  • maternal nutrition
  • hormonal profiles
  • performance-test
  • embryo survival


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