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Review: Mammary development in lactating sows: the importance of suckling

Farmer, C.
Animal 2019 v.13 no.S1 pp. s20
early lactation, farrowing, lactating females, mammary development, mammary glands, mammary involution, milk yield, parity (reproduction), piglets, pregnancy, sows, suckling, transcription (genetics)
Mammary development takes place during the growing and gestation periods in swine but it also continues after farrowing. In fact, a significant proportion of mammary accretion occurs during lactation and is stimulated by suckling. After piglets are weaned, there is involution of the mammary glands and the process of mammogenesis starts again during the next parity. Suckling of a teat for the first 12 to 14 h after farrowing is not sufficient to maintain lactation, and mammary involution accompanied by alterations in gene transcription will take place. The involution process is reversible within 1 day postpartum but is not reversible if a mammary gland is unsuckled for 3 days. Mammary glands that undergo involution early in lactation do not show further involution in the post-weaning period. The action of a teat being suckled does not only affect mammary development in the ongoing lactation but it also impacts mammogenesis in the following lactation. Indeed, when a mammary gland is not suckled in first parity it has a diminished development and lower milk yield in second parity. Furthermore, it was shown that suckling of a teat for only the first 2 days postpartum in primiparous sows is sufficient to ensure optimal mammary development and milk yield from that teat in the next lactation. The behavior of nursing piglets in early lactation is also affected by whether or not a teat was previously used. Such knowledge on lactation biology is essential in order to develop the best adapted management strategies for the currently used hyperprolific sow lines and to optimize growth rate of their piglets. This review gives an update on the role of suckling for mammary development in lactating sows and on how it can affect management strategies of primiparous sows.