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


Date of this Version


Document Type



J. Anim. Sci. 2012.90:2181–2192; doi:10.2527/jas2011-4724


In commercial pigs, the greatest susceptibility for pre-weaning mortality occurs in low birth-weight piglets. Despite their overall decreased birth weight, Meishan (MS) piglets have decreased pre-weaning mortality rates compared with contemporary Western breeds. The objective of the current study was to determine the contributions of the maternal uterine environment, piglet genotype, and their interaction on the development of neonatal piglets pertaining to pre-weaning survivability using reciprocal embryo transfer between MS and White crossbred (WC) pigs. Twenty-five successful pregnancies were produced from 2 farrowing seasons, generating litters of maternal uterine environment (MUE) by piglet genotype (PigG) combinations; MS × MS (n = 4 litters), MS × WC (n = 7 litters), WC × MS (n = 7 litters), and WC × WC (n = 7 litters). At approximately 24 h of age (Day 1), piglets (n = 173) were weighed and a blood sample was taken. Hematocrit, hemoglobin, glucose, plasma urea nitrogen, albumin, NEFA, lactate, and cortisol were measured in all blood samples. Representative piglets (n = 46) from each litter were harvested and body measurements (i.e., organ weights, tissue glycogen content, and body composition) were determined. Piglet data were analyzed by ANOVA using MIXED model procedures. Both MUE (P < 0.001) and PigG (P < 0.01) affected piglet BW, illustrating that piglets gestated in WC gilts were heavier than piglets gestated in MS gilts, and WC piglets were heavier than MS piglets. Serum albumin concentrations were increased (P < 0.05) in MS piglets compared with WC piglets, indicating greater liver maturity. Significant MUE × PigG interactions were observed for hematocrit and hemoglobin, in which the greatest concentrations were observed in MS piglets gestated in MS and WC gilts, and the lowest concentrations were observed in WC piglets gestated in WC gilts, demonstrating increased oxygen-carrying capability. The percentage of fat and nitrogen, as well as the GE of the body, were greater (P < 0.05) in MS piglets, indicating greater energy stores. Liver, bicep femoris, and LM glycogen concentrations were greater (P < 0.01) in WC piglets compared with MS piglets, demonstrating increased glycogen catabolism in MS piglets. This study demonstrated limited interactions between the maternal uterine environment and piglet genotype on weaning survivability potential, suggesting that the MS piglet is a viable model for pre-weaning survivability.