Meat Quality Affected by Sow Nutrition in Pregnancy

by 5m Editor
4 November 2008, at 8:46am

SPAIN - Cerisuelo and colleagues at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona have found that feeding sows an extra 2kg per days from days 45 to 85 of pregnancy can affect muscle development of their piglets and meat quality.

Pregnant sow nutrition is known to have potential effects on the muscle fibre development of the progeny before birth.

A total of 199 Landrace x Large White sows from parities 0 to 6 and their offspring were used to evaluate the effects of increasing feeding level during mid-pregnancy on muscle tissue, growth performance and meat quality of the progeny.

The experiment was divided into 2 study replicates and in each replicate sows were assigned to 1 of the 2 treatments:

  • control group (C-sows) was fed 2.5 to 3.0 kg/d (feed: 12.1 MJ ME/kg and 0.62% lysine) throughout gestation 2)
  • high group (H-sows) received an extra feed allowance of 1.5 kg/d for gilts and 2.0 kg/day for multiparous sows above the C level from days 45 to 85 of gestation (period of secondary muscle fibres formation).

Sow back fat was recorded on d 40 and 85 of gestation. Sow performance (litter size and piglet weight) at farrowing and on day 18 of lactation was measured.

At weaning, pigs were divided into 5 weight groups/treatment and progeny growth performance was measured during the nursery (n=958) and the growing-finishing (n=636) periods.

At slaughter, carcass and meat quality traits (lean content, main cut weight, pH, Minolta colour and drip loss) were recorded from the second lightest group at weaning (weight group 4; n=90) and samples from the Longissimus thoracis muscle were taken to study muscle fibre characteristics (n=70).

Extra nutrition from d 45 to d 85 of gestation did not lead to differences in litter size nor in piglet weight at farrowing and on d 18 of lactation. Pigs born from H mothers had fewer muscle fibres and fewer estimated primary and secondary fibres than in C pigs (P<0.05).

Postnatal growth performance was not consistently affected by the maternal treatment.

Fewer muscle fibres found in the H group of pigs was associated with a fewer type IIB fibres (P<0.05) with greater cross-sectional areas (P<0.10), which might be connected with the significantly higher meat pH at 24 hours postmortem and the lower L* values recorded in the H group of pigs.

Results from the present study confirm the existence of effects of maternal nutrition on foetal development at least in terms of muscle tissue development and meat quality, although with no beneficial effects on the postnatal growth performance of the progeny.


Cerisuelo A., Baucells M.D., Gasa J., Coma J., Carrión D., Chapinal N. and Sala R. 2008. Increased sow nutrition during mid-gestation affects muscle fiber development and meat quality with no consequences on growth performance. Journal of Animal Science [in press].

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