Effect of sow history features on growth and feed intake in grow-finish pigs

E.B. Sell-Kubiak, E.F. Knol, P. Bijma

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2 Citations (Scopus)


The sow provides a specific environment to her offspring during gestation and lactation. Certain features in the early life of the sow (sow history features) may affect her ability to deliver and feed a healthy litter. In genetic analyses of grow-finish traits, these effects are estimated as common litter or permanent sow effects. The objective of this research was to identify sow history features that affect the growth rate (GR) and feed intake (FI) of her offspring during the grow-finish stage. Data from 17,743 grow-finish pigs, coming from 604 sires and 681 crossbred sows, were recorded between May 2001 and February 2010 at the experimental farm of the Institute for Pig Genetics (Beilen, the Netherlands). The grow-finish stage was divided into 2 phases (phase 1: 26 to 75 kg; phase 2: 75 to 115 kg). The sow history features were birth litter size, birth year and season, birth farm, weaning age, age of transfer to the experimental farm, and age at first insemination. The sow features were added to the basic model one at a time to study their effect on the grow-finish traits of the pigs. Subsequently, significant sow features (P <0.1) were fitted simultaneously in an animal model. With every extra piglet in the birth litter of the sow, the GR of her offspring decreased by 1 g/d and the FI decreased by 4 g/d. Every extra day to the first insemination increased the GR of grow-finish pigs by 0.1 g/d. The heritability estimates for GR and FI (only in phase 2 of the grow-finish stage) decreased after adding the sow features to the model. No differences were found in estimates of the common litter effects between the basic model and the model with all significant sow features. The estimates of the permanent sow effect changed for FI from 0.03 (basic model) to 0.00 (model with sow features), and for FI in phase 1, the permanent sow effect decreased from 0.03 (basic model) to 0.01 (model with sow features). In conclusion, selected sow features do affect the grow-finish traits of the pigs, but their estimates are small and explain only a small proportion of the differences in the GR and FI of grow-finish pigs. The sow features partially explained the permanent sow effect of FI-related traits and did not explain the common litter effect. Although the sow early life features can affect piglet traits, they do not predict which sows produce better performing offspring in the grow-finish stage
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-126
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • muscle-fiber number
  • genetic-parameters
  • reproductive-performance
  • litter size
  • maternal nutrition
  • postnatal-growth
  • body condition
  • landrace pigs
  • traits
  • weight

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