The influence of environment on the growth of commercial finisher pigs
J. Tyler Holck, DVM, MS; Allan P. Schinckel, PhD; Jack L. Coleman, DVM; Vincent M. Wilt, DVM; Michael K. Senn, DVM, MS; Brad J. Thacker, DVM, PhD; Eileen L. Thacker, DVM, PhD; Alan L. Grant, PhD
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Objective: To quantify the influence of the commercial finishing environment on growth and to evaluate potential biomarkers of growth performance.
Methods: Forty-eight barrows were selected at 11 weeks of age from a commercial nursery and randomly assigned either to the environments of the adjoining commercial grower and finisher buildings (n=24) (COMM group) or an unrestricting research environment (n=24) (UNRES group). Pigs were weighed at biweekly intervals from placement at 30 kg (65 lb) liveweight until slaughter. Backfat thickness and loin eye area were measured by B-mode ultrasound every 28 days until the mean liveweight of the group was 91 kg (200 lb) and then biweekly to 120 kg (265 lb), when the entire group went to slaughter. Fat-free carcass lean and total carcass fat were predicted using equations including liveweight, ultrasonic backfat depth, and ultrasonic loin eye measurements. Serum collected at 11, 13, 15, 19, and 23 weeks of age were evaluated for [alpha]-1-acid glycoprotein (AGP), insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), and haptoglobin. Whole blood was collected at 11 and 23 weeks of age for lymphocyte phenotyping (CD4, CD8).
Results: UNRES group pigs had higher (P<.001) average daily liveweight gain, fat-free lean gain, and fat gain compared to pigs raised in the commercial environment. The liveweight gain and lean growth advantage of UNRES group pigs compared to COMM group pigs were immediate and consistent at each measurement. Lean gain increased from 30 to 52 kg (66 to 115 lb) bodyweight and then declined in both environments. UNRES group pigs had lower AGP (P<.02) and higher IGF-1 (P<.10) compared to COMM group pigs from 13-23 weeks of age. CD4 values were also significantly (P<.05) lower for the UNRES group pigs at 23 weeks of age.
Implications: The commercial grow-finish environment reduced liveweight, lean, and fat growth to 70% of that achieved under less limiting research conditions. Differences in AGP and CD4 values were detected between environments, suggesting that they may be useful as biomarkers in the finisher stage of commercial production.
Keywords: environment, growth, carcass quality, biomarkers
Cite as: Holck JT, Schinkel AP, Coleman JL, et al. The influence of environment on the growth of commercial finisher pigs. J Swine Health Prod 1998;6(4):141-149.
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