Animal Science Department


Date of this Version



Published in J. Anim. Sci. 2006. 84:300–304. Copyright © 2006 American Society of Animal Science. Used by permission.


Divergent selection in mice was applied in 3 independent replicates for high (maintenance high; MH) and low (maintenance low; ML) heat loss for 16 generations. An unselected control (maintenance control; MC) was also maintained in all replicates. Selection ceased for 26 generations; heat-loss measurement and selection resumed at generation 42. Lactation performance, dam weight, dam feed intake, and efficiency of production of pup weight were recorded or calculated for MH and ML dams in all 3 replicates at generation 46 or 47 with the objective of determining whether selection for heat loss has created correlated responses in maternal performance. One-half of the dams reared their own litters, and one-half reared cross-fostered (across lines) litters. Between 10 and 12 litters were used from each replicate-line-rearing class. Litter size was recorded, and litters were standardized to 8 pups within 24 h of birth. For cross fostering, MH litters were matched to ML litters born within 24 h of each other, and MH-ML litter pairs were cross-fostered at 3 d of age. A weigh-suckle-weigh protocol was used to obtain milk production estimates over a 2-h suckling period at 6, 9, 12, and 15 d. Dam (plus litter) feed intake was also recorded at these times and was calculated as the disappearance of feed over 3-d intervals. Dams of the MH selection tended (P < 0.11) to have greater litter size than those of the ML selection; litter size of MC dams was intermediate. Line of dam affected milk production (P = 0.04) and dam feed intake (P < 0.03) as MH dams produced more milk and consumed more feed than ML dams. Average milk production for the 2-h measurement period was 1.70 ± 0.07 and 1.41 ± 0.07 g, and average 3-d feed consumption was 50.8 ± 1.2 and 45.2 ± 1.2 g for MH and ML dams, respectively. Cross-fostering had no effect (P > 0.86) on milk production. Line of dam tended to affect 21-d litter weight (P = 0.15) with litters reared by MH dams weighing more than those reared by ML dams, but there was no difference (P > 0.86) in 21-d dam weights. Efficiency of producing litter weight (litter 15-d weight: dam plus litter feed intake from d 6 to 15) was greater (0.49 vs. 0.46, SE = 0.009; P = 0.03) for ML than for MH dams. Selection for reduced heat loss (lower maintenance feed intake in the ML line) resulted in reduced milk production and feed intake in dams and greater efficiency of litter weight production.