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ARS Home » Plains Area » Clay Center, Nebraska » U.S. Meat Animal Research Center » Livestock Bio-Systems » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #310025

Title: Relationships between day one piglet serum immunoglobulin immunocrit and subsequent growth, puberty attainment, litter size, and lactation performance

item Vallet, Jeff
item Miles, Jeremy
item Rempel, Lea
item Nonneman, Danny - Dan
item Lents, Clay

Submitted to: Journal of Animal Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/24/2015
Publication Date: 6/1/2015
Publication URL:
Citation: Vallet, J.L., Miles, J.R., Rempel, L.A., Nonneman, D.J., Lents, C.A. 2015. Relationships between day one piglet serum immunoglobulin immunocrit and subsequent growth, puberty attainment, litter size, and lactation performance. Journal of Animal Science. 93(6):2722-2729.

Interpretive Summary: Colostrum is the first milk produced by most mammals immediately after giving birth. It differs from milk in that it has higher concentrations of immune molecules and hormones that are thought to be important for the health and development of the newborn. Several reports indicate colostrum effects on the gut and reproductive tract development. However, little information is available on the effects of neonatal colostrum on adult traits like growth rate and reproductive efficiency. We recently developed the immunoglobulin immunocrit, a simple test to measure immunoglobulin in newborn piglet serum, which is reflective of the amount of colostrum obtained by the newborn piglet, and reported on its association with piglet survival. In the current report, we characterized relationships between the immunocrit and growth rates into adulthood, age at puberty, litter size (up to the fourth litter) and lactational performance. Results indicated that immunocrits measured on day 1 of age were positively related to growth rates in male and female pigs up to 200 days of age. High neonatal day 1 immunocrits were associated with an earlier age at puberty, greater litter size, and increased lactational performance in adult female swine. The combination of improved growth, earlier age at puberty, increased litter size, and improved lactation suggest that management strategies that improve the amount of colostrum ingested by piglets would result in improved performance of pigs, particularly female pigs destined to enter the breeding herd. Results also confirm that the immunocrit would be useful for monitoring colostrum ingested by piglets as part of strategies to improve delivery of colostrum to piglets.

Technical Abstract: Colostrum affects gut and uterine gland development in the neonatal piglet, suggesting that subsequent growth and reproductive performance may be affected. Measuring immunoglobulin in piglet serum using the immunoglobulin immunocrit on day 1 of age provides a simple inexpensive indication of the amount of colostrum acquired by the piglet in the first day of life. Relationships between serum immunoglobulin immunocrit measures and subsequent growth rates, age at puberty and the incidence of puberty failure, litter size, and lactation performance were examined in pigs born and subsequently farrowing between 2009 and 2013. Immunoglobulin immunocrit measures were collected on 16,762 piglets on day 1 of age. Of these piglets, body weight measurements were available from 15,324 (7,684 males, 7640 females) piglets at a range of ages from weaning to 200 days of age, allowing an assessment of growth rates. Age at puberty was recorded from a subset of 2,857 of the females after observing them for estrous behavior from approximately 170 to 250 days of age. To examine relationships between d 1 immunocrit and puberty failure, gilts with immunocrit measures that failed to reach puberty (n = 119) were matched with littermate gilts with immunocrit measures that achieved puberty (n = 167). Similarly, number born alive was collected on a subset (n = 799) of females from first to fourth parities for which d 1 immunocrits were measured on them as neonates. Finally, d 1 immunocrit effect on adult lactational competence was assessed by measuring litter average (offspring of 440 females) and litter average piglet preweaning growth rate (offspring of 774 females) in females where d 1 immunocrits were available from them as neonates. Results indicated that low d 1 immunocrits were subsequently associated with reduced growth (P < 0.01), increased age at puberty (P < 0.01), reduced number born alive (P < 0.05), reduced litter average immunocrit (P < 0.05), and reduced litter average preweaning growth rate during lactation (P < 0.05). This suggests that management efforts to improve the amount of colostrum ingested by neonatal piglets would result in beneficial changes in production efficiency, particularly for gilts destined for the breeding herd. It also suggests that the immunoglobulin immunocrit can be useful in monitoring colostrum ingestion to maximize the beneficial effects of colostrum on subsequent performance.