Animal Science Department


Date of this Version

January 2003


Published in J. Anim. Sci. 2003. 81:74–79. Copyright American Society of Animal Science. Used by permission.


The objective of this study was to evaluate correlated response in placental efficiency to selection for components of litter size. Fourteen generations of selection had resulted in a difference between lines of three fully formed piglets at birth. Gilts from a line selected for an index of components of litter size (S, n =33) and a randomly selected control (C, n =27) were observed at farrowing. At delivery, the umbilical cord of each piglet was double tagged with identically numbered mouse ear tags to allow the piglet’s weight to be matched to the corresponding placental weight. Litter size, placental weight, birth weight, and placental vascularity were recorded. Litter size was higher (12.0 ±&#;0.7 vs 7.9 ±&#;0.7) in S than in C (P <&#;0.001). Line differences in placental vascularity were not significant with or without adjustment for litter size (P =&#;0.45 and 0.39, respectively). Correlated response to selection for components of litter size resulted in a reduced birth weight (S 82.6% of C, P <&#;0.001) and a reduced placental weight (S 90.9% of C, P =&#;0.11). After adjusting for litter size, line differences in neither placental weight nor birth weight were significant (P =&#;0.40 and 0.07, respectively), which indicates that the reduction in birth weight was, for the most part, due to the increase in litter size. The result of the difference in the magnitude of the change for both weights was that placental efficiency, measured as the ratio of birth weight:placental weight was 0.43 higher in C (P=&#;0.05). Adjustment for litter size increased the difference in placental efficiency to 0.52 (P =&#;0.02). Since a significant difference in litter size favoring the selected line was observed, we hypothesize that this physiological response was achieved through mechanisms other than improved placental efficiency.