Identifying factors contributing to slow growth in pigs

Y. He, John Deen, Gerald C Shurson, L. Wang, Chi Chen, D. H. Keisler, Y. Z. Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Pigs that grow slower than their contemporaries can cause complications for animal welfare and profitability. This study was conducted to investigate factors that may contribute to slow growth of pigs. Pigs (n = 440) farrowed by 65 sows were monitored from birth to market. Pigs were categorized as slow, average, and fast growers based on market weight adjusted to 170 d of age (slow growers were <105 kg, average growers were between 105 and 125 kg, and fast growers were >125 kg). Blood samples were collected from 48 focal pigs at 9 and 21 wk of age and analyzed for hormone and free AA concentrations. Data were analyzed using the Mixed and Logistic procedures of SAS. Slow-growing pigs accounted for 10% of pigs marketed, average growers accounted for 49% of pigs marketed, and fast growers accounted for 41% of pigs marketed. Compared with fast growers, slow growers were lighter at birth (P < 0.01), at weaning (P < 0.01), and at nursery exit (P < 0.01) and had less backfat (P < 0.01) and smaller loin muscle area (P < 0.01) at marketing at 21 wk of age. Slow growers had lower plasma concentrations of IGF-1 (P = 0.03) and insulin (P < 0.001) during the nursery period and lower concentrations of leptin (P < 0.001) and insulin (P < 0.001) during the finishing period compared with average and fast growers. Serum concentrations of several essential, nonessential, and total free AA were less for slow growers during both the nursery and finishing periods compared with average and fast growers. Gilts were more likely to become slow growers than barrows (odds ratio = 2.17, 95% confidence interval = 1.19 to 3.96, P = 0.01). Litter size and parity of the pigs’ dam were not associated with slow growth. These results suggest that low concentrations of IGF-1, insulin, leptin, and AA may contribute to or be associated with slow growth in pigs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2103-2116
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 American Society of Animal Science. All rights reserved.


  • Hormones
  • Metabolites
  • Pigs
  • Slow growth


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