Osteochondrosis in Pigs Related to Body Weight

Pigs that were diagnosed with minor or severe osteochondrosis (OC) had higher body weights than those that did not have OC although the precise relationship between body weight and OC varied among the joints that were studied, according to new research from the Wageningen University Research in the Netherlands.
calendar icon 28 March 2012
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With respect to breeding, this finding means that a detailed record of osteochondrosis (OC) is important to select against the disease in order to improve leg strength and reduce premature culling.

Oc is a disturbance in bone tissue formation during growth of the skeleton. OC is considered the primary reason for leg weakness in pigs, which is the second most common reason (after fertility issues) for culling in sows. Previous studies suggested that there may be a relationship between OC and body weight gain. However, little is known regarding this relationship, particularly with respect to the time window in which body weight gain influences bone tissue formation.

The aim of the study was to identify the ages during which body weight gain and OC are related and to determine whether this relationship varies between joints.

To understand the relationship between growth and the onset of OC, bodyweight was measured repeatedly, and the OC scores of 345 pigs were measured. An average of 17 bodyweight measurements from birth until slaughter at six months of age was used. OC was scored macroscopically after slaughter at 24 locations in five joints. The pigs were divided into the following three discrete groups based on their severity of OC: no OC, minor OC and severe OC.

Until weaning at day 21, no differences in weight or gain were found between the three defined groups. From weaning onwards, the pigs that were diagnosed with either minor or severe OC had higher bodyweight than the pigs that were diagnosed without OC. This higher weight was due to increased weight gain before the age of three months. This time–window may, therefore, coincide with the window of susceptibility for OC in pigs.

The strength of the relationship with weight gain appeared to be joint–dependent. Pigs with OC in the elbow joints or with OC in two different joints had higher bodyweight, whereas pigs with OC in the stifle joints had lower bodyweight than the mean.

Determining both the window of susceptibility and the relationship between weight gain and OC may help facilitate the development of strategies to reduce OC in pig populations.

Further Reading

- Find out more information on osteochondrosis by clicking here.

March 2012
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