Fetal and neonatal programming of postnatal growth and feed efficiency in swine
The need to improve efficiency of pork production is continually being driven by tight profit margins and societal pressures. These have caused producers and researchers to seek new areas for improvement. Historically, improvements in performance of growing-finishing pigs were achieved by scrutinizing nutrition and management. Subsequent improvements were achieved by the realization that nursery feeding programs could influence weight of pigs transferred to finishing facilities and that additional weight enabled pigs to reach market weight sooner. The effects of weaning weight on subsequent performance have also been investigated and the results have shown that growth rate of suckling pigs and pig weaning weight are related positively to postweaning growth performance. An obvious next step is to look further back into the uterus to determine if prenatal growth and development of the fetus can influence postnatal pig performance. More importantly, can pork producers influence events in utero to optimize performance of pigs after birth? In other words, does fetal imprinting occur and can we influence it in a positive way?