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Age, sex, and weight at weaning influence organ weight and gastrointestinal development of weanling pigs

Pluske, J.R.ORCID: 0000-0002-7194-2164, Kerton, D.K., Cranwell, P.D., Campbell, R.G., Mullan, B.P., King, R.H., Power, G.N., Pierzynowski, S.G., Westrom, B., Rippe, C., Peulen, O. and Dunshea, F.R. (2003) Age, sex, and weight at weaning influence organ weight and gastrointestinal development of weanling pigs. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research, 54 (5). pp. 515-527.

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The present study was designed to determine the interrelationships between sex, weaning age, and weaning weight on aspects of physiological and gastrointestinal development in pigs. Forty-eight Large White x Landrace pigs were used in a factorial arrangement with the respective factors being: age at weaning (14 or 28 days), weight at weaning (heavy or light), sex (boar or gilt), and time after weaning (1, 7, and 14 days). At weaning, 48 pigs were removed from the sow; 16 pigs were then fasted for 24 h before euthanasia for determination of organ weights, gut histology, and enzymology, and 32 pigs were offered a high quality pelleted weaner diet ad libitum for subsequent assessment of organ weights, histology, and enzymology at 7 and 14 days after weaning. On Day 6 and 13 after weaning, 2 pigs from each group had their feed removed, and 24 h later were euthanased and similar measurements were taken. In general, the data highlighted the overall gastrointestinal underdevelopment of pigs weaned at 2 weeks of age and of pigs weaned light-for-age at either 2 or 4 weeks. Heavier body organs, gastrointestinal organs, and accessory digestive organs observed after weaning, except for the spleen, presumably reflected the increase in substrates available for cellular growth as feed intake increased after weaning, and the development of organs required to process this feed. Interestingly, the relative weights (% of liveweight) of the stomach and small intestine and, to a lesser extent, the caecum and colon, were greater in the light, 14-day-old weaned pigs, but these differences diminished with increasing time after weaning. Consistent effects due to age, weight, and sex were not observed for villous height and crypt depth, or for the specific activities of the brush-border and pancreatic enzymes measured. However, increases (P < 0.001) in the activities of maltase (P < 0.001), glucoamylase (P < 0.001), and sucrase (P = 0.020) (all expressed per gram of mucosa), and that of trypsin (per gram of pancreas), occurred by 14 days after weaning. This most likely reflected the inducible nature of these enzymes in response to the increasing intake of substrates provided in the diet. In contrast, the specific activity of lactase declined (P = 0.012) in the first 14 days after weaning. These data suggest that pigs weaned at 2 weeks of age and pigs weaned light-for-age at either 2 or 4 weeks have a less developed gastrointestinal tract, and that its development after weaning might proceed differently to that of pigs weaned older and heavier.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
Publisher: CSIRO
Copyright: (c) CSIRO
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