Milk Production in Sows from a Teat in Second Parity is Influenced by Whether It Was Suckled in First Parity

Teats that were suckled in first lactation produce more milk and are more developed in the next lactation than non-suckled teats, according to new research from Quebec, Canada.
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The impacts of a teat being suckled or not in first parity on its development, gene expression and milk yield in the next parity were studied and reported in Journal of Animal Science by Chantal Farmer from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada and co-authors there and at Aarhus University in Denmark.

Forty-seven first-parity sows were divided into two groups:

  • the same teats suckled in two subsequent lactations (controls; n=22) and
  • different teats suckled in two subsequent lactations (treated; n=25).

In the first lactation, over half of the teats (Teats 1, 2, 5, 6, and 7 from one side of the udder, and Teats 3, 4, and 7 from the other side) were sealed with tape so that they were non-functional. During the next lactation, the control group had the same teats sealed as in the first lactation, whereas the opposite teats were sealed for the treated group.

In both parities, litters were standardised to seven piglets around birth and to six piglets (one piglet per available teat) at 48 hours post-partum. During the second lactation, piglets were weighed at birth and on days 2, 4, 7, 14, 21, 35 and 56 post-partum. Weaning was at 17±1 day of age.

Behavioral measures were obtained (using 24-hour video recording) on days 3 and 10 of lactation on 15 sows per treatment to evaluate satiety of piglets, using aggressiveness and nursing behaviour as indicators.

At weaning in the second lactation, 16 sows per treatment were slaughtered and four functional mammary glands were collected for compositional analyses and parenchyma from two non-functional glands was collected to measure mRNA abundance for selected genes.

Piglets from control sows weighed 1.12kg more than piglets from treated sows (P<0.05) on day 56.

Functional mammary glands from control sows contained more parenchymal tissue, more DNA and more RNA (P<0.01) than those from treated sows.

The relative mRNA abundance of prolactin in parenchymal tissue tended to be greater in control than treated sows (P<0.10).

Behavioural measures indicated a greater hunger level for piglets using teats that had not previously been suckled.

Farmer and co-authors concluded their findings clearly show that teats that were suckled in the first lactation produce more milk and have a greater development in the second lactation than non-suckled teats.


Farmer C., M-F. Palin, P.K. Theil, M.T. Sorensen and N. Devillers. 2012. Milk production in sows from a teat in second parity is influenced by whether it was suckled in first parity. J. Anim. Sci., 90(11):3743-3751

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November 2012
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