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Effects of L‐citrulline supplementation on heat stress physiology, lactation performance and subsequent reproductive performance of sows in summer

Liu, Fan, de Ruyter, Emily M., Athorn, Rebecca Z., Brewster, Chris J., Henman, David J., Morrison, Rebecca S., Smits, Robert J., Cottrell, Jeremy J., Dunshea, Frank R.
Journal of animal physiology and animal nutrition 2019 v.103 no.1 pp. 251-257
backfat, blood flow, body weight, cell respiration, citrulline, diet, farrowing, farrowing rate, fat thickness, heat stress, lactating females, lactation, litter weight, mortality, nitrates, nitric oxide, nitrites, piglets, reproductive performance, sows, standard deviation, summer, temperature, weaning, weight gain
Lactating sows are susceptible to heat stress (HS). Part of the thermoregulatory response to HS is to increase peripheral blood flow, which is mediated in part by the vasodilator, nitric oxide (NO). Therefore, the aim of this experiment was to determine the effect of supplementation of L‐citrulline, a NO precursor, on symptoms of HS, lactation performance and subsequent reproductive performance of sows in summer. A total of 221 summer farrowing mixed parity sows were fed either a control diet or supplemented with 1% L‐citrulline upon entry to the farrowing house (6 ± 1.8 days for mean ± standard deviation [SD] before farrowing) until weaning (26 ± 1.5 days). The average daily minimum and maximum temperature in the farrowing house was 21.0 ± 1.88 and 29.2 ± 3.82°C (mean ± SD). Rectal temperature, respiration rate, and plasma and urinary nitrite and nitrate (NOx) of sows were measured on the 19th day post‐farrowing. Supplemental L‐citrulline in the diet did not affect the number of piglets born alive, feed intake of sows, body weight or backfat thickness of sows at weaning, or litter weight gain. L‐citrulline tended to reduce piglet pre‐weaning mortality rate from 18.6% to 15.6% (p = 0.058). L‐citrulline reduced the respiration rate of sows compared to the control diet at 17:00 hr (Time × Diet, p < 0.001); however, rectal temperature was not affected. L‐citrulline tended to increase urinary NOx concentrations (127 vs. 224 µM, p = 0.057) but not plasma NOx concentrations. L‐citrulline did not affect farrowing rate or number of piglets born alive in the subsequent parity. In conclusion, L‐citrulline supplementation reduced respiration rate of lactating sows and reduced piglet pre‐weaning mortality rate in summer. Whether the effects were due to a NO‐dependent mechanism requires further validation.