Evaluating the Effects of In Utero Heat Stress on Piglet Physiology and Behavior Following Weaning and Transport.

Affiliation

Department of Animal Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA. [Email]

Abstract

The study objective was to determine whether in utero heat stress (IUHS) affects piglet physiology and behavior following common production practices. A total of 12 gilts were confirmed pregnant and allocated to either heat stress (HS; n = 6) or thermoneutral (TN; n = 6) conditions on day 30⁻60 of gestation. At weaning (22.5 ± 2.3 days of age), 1 boar and 1 barrow of median weight were selected from each litter and transported for approximately 7 h. Piglets were then blocked into pens (n = 2/pen) by in utero treatment (IUHS (n = 12) or in utero thermoneutral (IUTN, n = 12)) and sexual status (boar (n = 6/in utero treatment) or barrow (n = 6/in utero treatment)). Plasma cortisol, non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA), insulin and glucose were evaluated 1 day prior to transport (pre-transport) and immediately after transport (post-transport). Behavioral data were collected on day 1⁻7 for 60 min at four different time points each day. In utero heat stressed piglets exhibited reduced cortisol concentrations compared to IUTN piglets immediately post-transport (p = 0.04). Glucose concentrations were not affected by in utero treatment. Insulin concentrations were reduced in IUTN piglets post-transport compared to pre-transport (p = 0.002), but no differences were detected for IUHS pigs. Non-esterified fatty acids tended to be reduced overall for IUHS vs. IUTN pigs (p = 0.08). Overall, IUHS piglets performed more drinking behaviors (p = 0.02) and tended to perform more aggressive behaviors (p = 0.07) than IUTN piglets in the 7 days post-transport. In summary, there was some evidence for altered physiological and behavioral responses among IUHS piglets compared to IUTN piglets following weaning and transport.

Keywords

behavior,in utero heat stress,piglets,stress physiology,transportation,weaning,

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