Reduced Feed Intake, Rather than Increased Energy Losses, Explains Variation in Growth Rates of Normal-Birth-Weight Piglets

Rik J.J. van Erp*, Hubert M.J. van Hees, Ruurd T. Zijlstra, Theo A.T.G. van Kempen, Jan Bert van Klinken, Walter J.J. Gerrits

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Substantial variation in growth rates exists in normal-birth-weight piglets, possibly due to differences in energy efficiency. Within this population, slow growth rates are associated with reduced insulin sensitivity. Slowly digestible starch (SDS) may improve growth efficiency in slowly growing pigs, because it reduces postprandial blood glucose.Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate maintenance energy requirements and efficiency of energy used for growth (incremental energy efficiency) of slow-growing or fast-growing piglets (SG-pigs and FG-pigs, respectively) with equal birth weight that were fed either an SDS or a rapidly digestible-starch (RDS) diet.Methods: Sixteen groups of either five 10-wk-old SG-pigs (mean ± SD: 11.3 ± 1.4 kg) or FG-pigs (15.1 ± 1.7 kg) were housed in climate respiration chambers and fed diets containing 40% RDS or SDS for 2 wk. In week 1, feed was available ad libitum. In week 2, feed supply was restricted to 65% of the observed weekly averaged feed intake [kJ · kg body weight (BW)-0.6 · d-1] in week 1. After week 2, pigs were feed deprived for 24 h, after which heat production was determined. Energy balances, apparent total tract digestibility (ATTD), and incremental energy efficiencies were calculated and analyzed using a general linear model.Results: Gross energy intake (kJ · kg BW-0.6 · d-1) was 4% greater (P = 0.047) for FG-pigs than for SG-pigs. ATTD of fat was 6%-units greater (P = 0.003) for RDS-fed than for SDS-fed pigs. Fasting heat production and incremental energy efficiencies did not differ between pig types or diets. Incremental use of metabolizable energy for fat retention was 2% units (P = 0.054) greater for RDS-fed than SDS-fed pigs.Conclusions: A lower energy intake rather than greater maintenance requirements or lower energy efficiency explains the slow growth of SG-pigs. Incremental RDS intake increased fat deposition more than SDS, whereas energy efficiency was not affected. Thus, feeding SDS instead of RDS does not improve growth efficiency but may result in slightly leaner pigs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1794-1803
JournalThe Journal of Nutrition
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018


  • fasting heat production
  • growth performance
  • incremental energy efficiency
  • normal birth weight
  • pigs
  • rate of starch digestion


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