Estimation of Weaning Age Effects on Growth Performance in Berkshire Pigs

  • Do, C.H. (Department of Animal Biosystem Science, College of Agriculture and Life Science, Chungnam National University)
  • Received : 2011.03.25
  • Accepted : 2011.08.19
  • Published : 2012.02.01


Analysis for back fat thickness (BFAT) and daily body weight gains from birth to the end of a performance test were conducted to find an optimal method for estimation of weaning age effects and to ascertain impacts of weaning age on the growth performance of purebred Berkshire pigs from a closed population in Korea. Individual body weights were measured at birth (B), at weaning (W: mean, 22.9 d), at the beginning of the performance test (P: mean, 72.7 d), and at the end of the performance test (T: mean, 152.4 d). Further, the average daily gains in body weight (ADG) of 3,713 pigs were analyzed for the following periods: B to W (DGBW), W to P (DGWP), P to T (DGPT), B to P (DGBP), B to T (DGBT), and W to T (DGWT). Weaning ages ranged from 17 to 34 d, and were treated as fixed (WF), random with (WC) and random without (WU) consideration of an empirical relationship between weaning ages in the models. WF and WC produced the lowest AIC (Akaike Information Criterion) and least fractions of error variance components in multi-traits analysis, respectively. The fractions of variances due to diverse weaning age and the weaning age correlations among ADGs of different stages (when no overlapping allowed) by WC ranged from 0.09 to 0.35 and from -0.03 to 0.44, respectively. The maximum weaning age effects and optimal back fat thicknesses were attained at weaning ages of 27 to 32 d. With the exception of DGBW, the effects of weaning age on the ADGs increased (ranging from 1.50 g/d to 7.14 g/d) with increased weaning age. In addition, BFAT was reduced by 0.106 mm per increased day in weaning age. In conclusion, WC produced reasonable weaning age correlations, and improved the fitness of the model. Weaning age was one of crucial factors (comparable with heritability) influencing growth performance in Berkshire pigs. Further, these studies suggest that increasing weaning age up to 32 d can be an effective management strategy to improve growth performance. However, additional investigations of the costs and losses related to extension of the suckling period and on the extended range of weaning age are necessary to determine the productivity and safety of this practice in a commercial herd and production system.


Supported by : Chungnam National University


  1. Akaike, H. 1973. Information theory and an extension of the maximum likelihood principle. 2nd Int. Symp. Information Theory (Ed. B. N. Petrov and F Csaki). Akademiai Kiado, Budapest, Hungary.
  2. Baltagi, B. H., S. H. Song, W. Koh and B. C. Jung. 2007. Testing for serial correlation, spatial autocorrelation and random effects using panel data. J. Econom. 140: 5-51.
  3. Cardoso, F. F. and R. J. Tempelman. 2003. Bayesian inference on genetic merit under uncertain paternity. Genet. Sel. Evol. 35:469-487.
  4. Carney, E. E., H. Tran, J. W. Bundy, R. Moreno, P. S. Miller and T. E. Burkey. 2009. Effect of dam parity on growth performance and immunity of weaned pigs. Nebraska Swine Reports. Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.
  5. Coffey, R. D., G. R. Parker and K. M. Laurent. 2000. Feeding and managing the weanling pig. University of Kentucky. Lexington and Kentucky State University, Frankfort. KY. Cooperative Extension Service, ASC-149.
  6. Fangman, T. J., R. C. Tubbs and K. Henningsen-Dyer. 1996. Influence of weaning site, weaning age, and viral exposure on production performance in early-weaned nursery pigs. J. Swine Health Prod. 4:223-229.
  7. Lynch, P. B., S. Kavanagh, P. Lawlor, M. Young, D. Harrington, P. J. Caffrey and W. D. Henry. 1998. Effect of Pre-and Post-weaning Nutrition and Management on Performance of Weaned Pigs to circa 35 kg. Teagasc Moorepark Research Centre, End of Project Report-4128.
  8. Mahan, D. C. and A. J. Lepine. 1991. Effect of pig weaning weight and associated nursery feeding programs on subsequent performance to 105 kilograms body weight. J. Anim. Sci. 69:1370-1378.
  9. Mahan, D. C., G. L. Cromwell, R. C. Ewan, C. R. Hamilton and J. T. Yen. 1998. Evaluation of the feeding duration of a phase 1 nursery diet to three-week-old pigs of two weaning weights. J. Anim. Sci. 76:578-583.
  10. Main, R. G., S. S. Dritz, M. D. Tokach, R. D. Goodband and J. L. Nelssen. 2004. Increasing weaning age improves pig performance in a multisite production system. J. Anim. Sci. 82:1499-1507.
  11. Meyer, K. 2010. WOMBAT: A program for mixed model analyses by restricted maximum likelihood.
  12. Patience, J. F., H. W. Gonyou, D. L. Whittington, E. Beltranena, C. S. Rhodes and A. G. Van Kessel. 2000. Evaluation of site and age of weaning on pig growth performance. J. Anim. Sci. 78:1726-1731.
  13. Rosendo, A., L. Canario, T. Druet, J. Gogue and J. P. Bidanel. 2007. Correlated responses of pre- and post-weaning growth and backfat thickness to six generations of selection for ovulation rate or prenatal survival in French Large White pigs. J. Anim. Sci. 85:3209-3217.
  14. Smith, A. L., K. J. Stalder, T. V. Serenius, T. J. Baas and J. W. Mabry. 2007. Effect of piglet birth weight on weights at weaning and 42 d post weaning. J. Swine Health Prod. 15(4):213-218.
  15. Smith, A. L., K. J. Stalder, T. V. Serenius, T. J. Baas and J. W. Mabry. 2008. Effect of weaning age on nursery pig and sow reproductive performance. J. Swine Health Prod. 16(3):131-137.
  16. Snijders, T. A. B. 2005. Fixed and random effects. Encyclopedia of Statistics in Behavioral Science. Volume 2, 664-665.
  17. Tomiyama, M., T. Oikawa, M. A. Hoque, T. Kanetani and H. Mori. 2009. Influence of early postweaning traits on genetic improvement of meat productivity in purebred Berkshire pigs. J. Anim. Sci. 87:1613-1619.
  18. Tomiyama, M., T. Kanetani, Y. Tatsukawa, H. Mori and T. Oikawa. 2010. Genetic parameters for preweaning and early growth traits in Berkshire pigs when creep feeding is used. J. Anim. Sci. 88:879-884.
  19. Ward, H. K., W. E. Rempel and F. D. Enfield. 1964. Genetic relationship of weaning weight with post-weaning growth rate in swine. J. Anim. Sci. 23:651-655.
  20. Wolter, B. F. and M. Ellis. 2001. The effects of weight and rate of growth immediately after weaning on subsequent pig growth performance and carcass characteristics. Can. J. Anim. Sci. 81:363-369.

Cited by

  1. Effect of weaning age on intestinal mucosal morphology, permeability, gene expression of tight junction proteins, cytokines and secretory IgA in Wuzhishan mini piglets pp.1828-051X, 2018,