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Hormonal, behavioural and performance characteristics of Meishan sows during pregnancy and lactation

Farmer, C., Robert, S.
Canadian journal of animal science 2003 v.83 no.1 pp. 1-12
Meishan, breed differences, embryonic mortality, growth and development, lactation, litter size, mammary development, milk composition, piglets, pregnancy, sows
Meishan sows are known for their high prolificity and great lactational performances. Specific breed characteristics in terms of their embryonic, foetal and placental developments as well as their differences in mammary development at the end of gestation are covered. The various known metabolic, physiological and endocrine factors related to the decreased embryonic mortality and increased placental vascularity, which are largely responsible for the greater litter size of Meishans, are discussed. An overview of published data on the endocrine status of the sow and foetuses throughout pregnancy is also presented. The superiority of Meishan sows during lactation is described in terms of its various components (i.e., piglet growth and development, sow and litter behaviour, milk composition) and the breed differences pertaining to sow metabolism and endocrinology during lactation are covered in order to provide an insight as to the possible mechanisms responsible for these superior performances. This review illustrates how a better understanding of the biological differences between Meishan sows and sows from European breeds could benefit the development of new management schemes to further improve reproductive potential of sows from traditional breeds.