U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Date of this Version


Document Type



Published in Animal Reproduction Science 77 (2003) 85–105. DOI:10.1016/S0378-4320(02)00236-1


This study compared dynamics of the germ cell population in two swine breeds that differ in prolifacy, White Composite (WC) and Meishan (MS), during fetal and neonatal life and in mature sows. Germ cell populations developed in a similar pattern in these two diverse breeds during fetal life. Maximal germ cell number was observed at 90 days postcoitum (dpc) in both WC and MS gilts, and substantial oogonial apoptosis was evident thereafter with approximately 30% of maximal numbers present at 25 days postpartum (dpp). Neither gilt nor sow germ cell number was correlated with maternal ovulation rate. Postnatal MS gilts had larger pools of primordial follicles and consistently greater proportions and numbers of primary and secondary follicles compared to postnatal WC gilts, indicative of enhanced follicular recruitment and primordial follicle activation. Occasional antral follicles were present in MS ovaries by 25 dpp and numerous surface follicles were observed at 56 dpp in MS but not WC ovaries, indicative of more rapid ovarian maturation and early onset of puberty. Total germ cell number is unlikely to influence or to predict subsequent ovulation rate. These observations highlight important developmental events during late fetal and early postnatal life that prepare the ovarian environment for early onset of puberty and subsequent ovulation in MS gilts.