J. L. Vallet, J. A. Calderón-Díaz, K. J. Stalder, C. Phillips, R. A. Cushman, J. R. Miles, L. A. Rempel, G. A. Rohrer, C. A. Lents, B. A. Freking and D. J. Nonneman
The preweaning litter environment of gilts can affect subsequent development. In a recent experiment designed to test the effects of diet on gilt development, litter-of-origin traits including individual birth weights, immunocrits (a measure of colostrum intake), sow parity, number weaned, and individual weaning weights were collected for approximately 1,200 gilts that were progeny of approximately 300 sows. Subsequently, BW, LM area, and backfat were measured at 100 d of age and at 28-d intervals until slaughter (260 d of age). From 160 d of age to slaughter, gilts were observed daily for estrus. At slaughter, the reproductive tract and 1 mammary gland were recovered. The reproductive tract was classified as cyclic or prepubertal; the number of corpora lutea was counted. Uterine horn lengths and ovarian dimensions were measured. Uterus and ovary samples from every 10th gilt were prepared for histological evaluation of uterine gland development and follicle counts, respectively. Mammary gland tissue protein and fat were assayed. Day of the estrous cycle at slaughter was calculated using the first day of the most recent standing estrus (d 0) recorded previous to slaughter. Each gilt development trait was analyzed for association with each litter-of-origin trait, after adjusting for dietary treatment effects. Uterine length, ovarian dimensions, mammary gland protein and fat, and uterine gland development were also adjusted for day of the estrous cycle at slaughter. All litter-of-origin traits were associated (P < 0.05) with growth traits. Top-down (backward elimination) multiple regression analysis indicated that BW and LM accretion in gilts was positively associated with immunocrit (P < 0.01), birth weight (P < 0.01), preweaning growth rate (P < 0.01), and parity (P < 0.01). Backfat accretion was positively associated with preweaning growth rate (P < 0.01), number weaned (P < 0.05), and parity (P < 0.05). Age at puberty was associated with birth weight (positive; P < 0.01) and preweaning growth rate (negative; P < 0.01). Total uterine length was positively associated with only birth weights (P < 0.05). Mammary gland protein was negatively associated with preweaning growth (P < 0.01). Mammary gland fat was positively associated with birth weight and number of piglets weaned (P > 0.05). These results indicate that colostrum consumption, birth weights, preweaning growth rate, number weaned, and parity are associated with gilt development traits during later life.