Effects of nursery floor space allowance on growth, physiology, and immunology of replacement gilts
Callahan, Stuart Russell
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In U.S. swine herds, sow removal rates due to death and voluntary and involuntary culling exceed 50% annually. This loss poses an economic problem for producers because the cost of acquiring replacement females is great. Although research has shown that crowding in the nursery has negative impacts on growth, research describing effects of crowding on subsequent reproductive performance and longevity in sows is lacking. This experiment was conducted to determine the impacts of crowding during the nursery phase of production on growth, physiology, and immunology in replacement gilts. Gilts (22.3 ± 3.2 d of age and 5.6 ± 0.6 kg BW) were subjected to floor space allocations of 0.15, 0.19, or 0.27 m2/pig during a 7-wk nursery period. Floor space allocations were achieved by altering the number of pigs per pen (14, 11, and 8 gilts/pen, respectively). As was expected, reduced floor space allowance in the nursery negatively affected growth performance although there was inconclusive physiological and immunological evidence to suggest that pigs were experiencing highly stressful conditions. Although feed intake was not measured, changes in blood counts and blood chemistry for gilts allowed reduced floor space were similar to other studies that reported negative effects of crowding on feed consumption. Further study of the gilts involved in this study will aim to determine if there are any links between the effects of crowding during the nursery and subsequent reproductive performance and longevity in the breeding herd.
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