Relationship between energy intake and growth performance and body composition in pigs selected for low backfat thickness

Fan Liu, Christopher J Brewster, Samantha L Gilmour, David J Henman, Robert J Smits, Brian G Luxford, Frank R Dunshea, John R Pluske, Roger G Campbell


Genetic selection of pigs over recent decades has sought to reduce carcass fat content to meet consumer demands for lean meat in many countries (e.g., Australia). Due to the impacts of genetic changes, it is unknown whether the carcass fat measures are still responsive to energy intake. Thus, the present experiment aimed to quantify the relationship between tissue composition and dietary energy intake in finisher pigs selected for low carcass backfat. Intact male and female pigs (n = 56 for each sex; Primegro Genetics, Corowa, NSW, Australia) were fed seven different amounts of an amino acid adequate wheat-based diet containing 14.3 MJ digestible energy (DE)/kg to provide the following daily DE intakes- 25.8, 29.0, 32.6, 35.3, 38.5, 41.5, and 44.2 (ad libitum) MJ DE/d for males, and 25.8, 28.9, 32.0, 35.6, 38.3, 40.9, and 44.5 (ad libitum) MJ DE/d for females between 60 and 108 kg live weight. Body composition of anesthetized pigs was measured using the dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) method when individual pigs reached 108 kg, and protein, fat, and ash deposition rates were calculated. Pigs were slaughtered on the second day post-DXA scan for carcass backfat measurement. The results showed that the carcass backfat thickness (standardized at 83.7 kg carcass) increased by 0.125 mm for every MJ increase in daily DE intake in male pigs (P = 0.004; R2 = 0.130), but carcass backfat of female pigs (standardized at 85.1 kg carcass) was not responsive to daily DE intake. Whole-body fat composition and fat deposition rate increased linearly (both P < 0.01) in male pigs but quadratically (both P < 0.01) in female pigs in response to DE intake. Every MJ increase of daily DE intake increased the rate of daily protein deposition by 3.8 g in intact male pigs (P < 0.001; R2 = 0.781) and by 2.5 g in female pigs (P < 0.001; R2 = 0.643). In conclusion, the selection for low backfat thickness over the last two decades has altered the response of fat deposition and backfat thickness to energy intake, particularly in female pigs. Despite this change, the linear relationship between DE intake and protein deposition rate was maintained in these modern genetics.

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