Gestational Heat Stress Alters Postnatal Offspring Body Composition Indices and Metabolic Parameters in Pigs
The study objectives were to test the hypothesis that heat stress (HS) during gestational development alters postnatal growth, body composition, and biological response to HS conditions in pigs. To investigate this, 14 first parity crossbred gilts were exposed to one of four environmental treatments (TNTN, TNHS, HSTN, or HSHS) during gestation. TNTN and HSHS dams were exposed to thermal neutral (TN, cyclical 18–22ºC) or HS conditions (cyclical 28–34ºC) during the entire gestation, respectively. Dams assigned to HSTN and TNHS treatments were heat-stressed for the first or second half of gestation, respectively. Postnatal offspring were exposed to one of two thermal environments for an acute (24 h) or chronic (five weeks) duration in either constant TN (21ºC) or HS (35ºC) environment. Exposure to chronic HS during their growth phase resulted in decreased longissimus dorsi cross-sectional area (LDA) in offspring from HSHS and HSTN treated dams whereas LDA was larger in offspring from dams in TNTN and TNHS conditions. Irrespective of HS during prepubertal postnatal growth, pigs from dams that experienced HS during the first half of gestation (HSHS and HSTN) had increased (13.9%) subcutaneous fat thickness compared to pigs from dams exposed to TN conditions during the first half of gestation. This metabolic repartitioning towards increased fat deposition in pigs from dams heat-stressed during the first half of gestation was accompanied by elevated blood insulin concentrations (33%; P = 0.01). Together, these results demonstrate HS during the first half of gestation altered metabolic and body composition parameters during future development and in biological responses to a subsequent HS challenge.