Impact of milk and nutrient intake of piglets and sow milk composition on piglet growth and body composition at weaning
The main objective of this study was to evaluate the impact of milk intake, milk composition, and nutrient intake on piglet growth in lactation and body composition at weaning. To evaluate the body composition of piglets, data from one experiment (44 Danish Landrace × Yorkshire × Duroc piglets) were used to develop prediction equations for body pools of fat, protein, ash, and water based on live weight and deuterium dilution space (exp. 1). Furthermore, a total of 294 piglets (Danish Landrace × Yorkshire × Duroc) from 21 sows of second parity were included in a second experiment (exp. 2). In exp. 2, piglet live weight was recorded on days 3, 10, 17, and 25 of lactation. On the same days, the milk intake and body composition were measured, using the deuterium oxide (D2O) dilution technique. Piglet weight gain was highly positively correlated with the intake of milk and the intake of milk constituents each week and on an overall basis having r values ranging from 0.65 to 0.93 (P < 0.001). When evaluating regressions for piglet growth, the milk intake in combination with the milk protein concentration explained 85% and 87% of the total variation in piglet gain in the second and third week of lactation, respectively, whereas milk intake was the only predictor of piglet gain in the first week of lactation explaining 81% of the variation. Fat, protein, and energy retention rates were all highly positively correlated with the daily intake of milk and intake of milk nutrients with r values ranging from 0.76 to 0.94 (P < 0.001). Piglet gain and retention rates were rather weakly correlated with the milk composition with r values ranging from 0.01 to 0.50 (being either negative or positive). Curvilinear response curves were fitted for live weight gain and body fat content at weaning in response to milk protein concentration, showing that live weight gain was slightly greater and body fat content was slightly lower at 4.9% milk protein, but it should be emphasized that the quadratic effects did not reach significance. Body fat content at weaning was positively related with the intake of milk (R2 = 0.44, P < 0.001) and milk fat (R2 = 0.46, P < 0.01). In conclusion, milk intake had a major impact on the piglet growth rate, and milk fat intake greatly influenced the body fat percentage at weaning, whereas milk composition per se only played a minor role for these traits.