Research Show Low Birth Weights Do Not Impact Growth Performance of Pork Quality

CANADA - Research conducted by the Prairie Swine Centre shows that, although low birth weight piglets reach market weight more slowly than their heavier littermates, the quality of the carcasses are equal, writes Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 28 March 2007
clock icon 3 minute read

Over the past several years the number of pigs born per litter has increased sharply, resulting in lower birth weights per pig.

With many farms now targeting 30 piglets per sow per year, scientists at the Prairie Swine Centre are looking at the effect of birth weight on growth performance and on carcass and meat quality.

Research assistant Dr. Denise Beaulieu told those on hand yesterday for Focus on the Future 2007 work out of Germany has shown these very small birth weight piglets have fewer muscle fibres than their heavier weight liter mates so those muscle fibres must grow larger for the lighter pigs to reach market weight.

Dr. Denise Beaulieu-Prairie Swine Centre

During the nursery the smaller birth weight piglets, as expected, did indeed grow slightly slower.

However by the time they were at seven weeks postweaning they had actually caught up and were growing as well as their higher birth weight littermates.

Overall the smaller birth weight piglets, it took them abut ten more days to get to market.

That is because they start at a smaller birth weight.

However, if marketed at the same weight, and I should have mentioned that we marketed by weight so they went to market as per normal marketing procedure in the barn.

If they're marketed at the same body weight we saw no overall effect on carcass quality.

And I should say, when we looked at carcass quality, then we divided the piglets up by birth weight so looking at four quartiles of birth weights from the very small, from about 800 grams to greater than 1.5 kilos, we saw no effect on carcass quality and we don't think right now there will be any major effects on eating quality of that meat.

Dr. Beaulieu concludes, while increased liter size does result in more small birth weight piglets, those low birth weights do not impact average daily gain or hurt carcass or meat quality.

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