Post-weaning performance of piglets from systems where lactation is disrupted (e.g. from multisuckling systems) is superior to conventionally reared piglets. The objective of this study was to establish whether restricted growth prior to weaning caused by disruption of suckling was an important factor in post-weaning performance and also whether there were related changes in gastro-intestinal development. Ten litters of eight piglets were used in a split-plot design. Half of each litter (limited suckling, LS) had suckling disrupted by separation from their dam for 7 h/day from day 14 to 28 after farrowing. The remainder of each litter was allowed to suck normally (normal suckling, NS). The same amount of creep feed was offered to LS piglets as consumed by NS littermates on the previous day. There were no differences in weight between LS and NS piglets at 14 days of age, but restricting access to the sow reduced weaning weight at 28 days of age (7.96 v. 9.00 kg; LS v. NS; P < 0.01; s.e.d. 0.23). Feed intakes were greater for LS than NS piglets over the first 28 days post weaning, particularly in the 1st week after weaning when feed efficiency was also improved (0.91 v. 0.62 kg gain per kg feed; P < 0.01; s.e.d. 0.08). As a result, LS piglets grew more rapidly in the first 28 days post weaning, particularly in the first 7 days after weaning. Subsequent performance to 8 weeks was similar for both groups. Digestive organ weights were not different at 2 and 9 days after weaning; nor were small intestine specific enzyme activities significantly different ( P>0.05). Pancreatic trypsin activity was, however, greater ( P < 0.01) for LS pigs on both days 2 and 9 post weaning. In conclusion the restriction of growth as a result of limited suckling itself is an important factor in determining post-weaning performance and may be related to development of pancreatic trypsin activity.
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