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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 54(3)

Dietary fatty acids affect the growth, body composition and performance of post-weaning gilt progeny

S. J. Wilkinson A B, J. A. Downing A, P. C. Thomson A and R. E. Newman A

A The University of Sydney, Faculty of Veterinary Science, Camden, NSW 2570, Australia.
B Corresponding author. Email: stuart.wilkinson@sydney.edu.au

Animal Production Science 54(3) 339-346 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AN13128
Submitted: 2 April 2013  Accepted: 14 May 2013   Published: 20 June 2013

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Gilt progeny are born lighter, have lower weaning weights and require more medication throughout their life time than do sow progeny. Therefore, strategies to improve their post-weaning performance are of importance to pork producers. Dietary fatty acids have been shown to be potent modulators of physiological processes. Studies in other species have reported that dietary fatty acids affect in utero development, cognitive behaviour, immune system function, carcass composition as well as feed efficiency of offspring. However, little information is available that details their use in gilt progeny and when fed throughout their lifetime. In the present study, two experiments were conducted to investigate the effects of feeding three different types of fat to gilts and their progeny on the growth, body composition and performance post-weaning. Diets were enriched with either saturated fatty acids (SFA; tallow), or n-3 (fish-oil extracts) or n-6 (safflower oil) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and were fed to gilts through gestation and to their progeny post-weaning. In Experiment 2, half of the female progeny from n-3 and n-6 PUFA litters were fed SFA post-weaning. For both studies, there was no significant difference in weaning bodyweights. However, in Experiment 1, pigs fed n-6 PUFA diets post-weaning were significantly lighter 7 days post-weaning than were pigs fed SFA- and n-3 PUFA-enriched diets. Despite feed intake of n-6 PUFA-fed pigs becoming comparable to that of the other groups during the finisher period, bodyweight for this group remained significantly lower than that of the other groups at the conclusion of the experiment. No effect of dietary fatty acid type on the carcass composition of finisher pigs, as determined by computed tomography, was found. The results of Experiment 2 showed that feeding pigs n-6 PUFA diets post-weaning through to slaughter significantly compromised their growth, being in agreement with those from Experiment 1. Feed consumption for this group was significantly less during the post-weaning and the finisher periods. However, pigs from n-6 PUFA litters that were fed SFA diets post-weaning showed no compromise in growth and performance and were comparable to pigs from the other treatment groups. During the grower and finisher periods, pigs fed n-6 PUFA diets had a significantly higher rate of mortality that was as much as 13 times that of pigs fed SFA diets. Pigs from n-6 PUFA litters that were fed SFA diets post-weaning were not affected in this manner. The results of the current study showed that feeding diets enriched with n-6 PUFA to pigs significantly compromised their growth and performance and that this fatty acid type may also have negative health effects with prolonged consumption. The data suggested that the type of fatty acid used in pig diets may be an important consideration for nutritionists when formulating diets to optimise post-weaning growth and performance.


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