27 October 1995

Meishan gene benefits

FUTURE sow dam lines could be changed dramatically by introducing genes from the Meishan.

An ongoing study by the National Pig Development Company and the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) shows Meishan synthetic sows are smaller but have higher body fat reserves than white breeds and can rear an extra three piglets a sow.

"Milk yields were 20% higher than the white breeds and produced milk richer in fat," says Dr Sandra Edwards of the SAC.

"Results from our experiments also showed that feed intake patterns were very different for the two breeds. The Meishans started lactation with lower intakes but increased as lactation progressed.

"By the final week of a five-week lactation period, Meishans ate more than the white sows, which may explain their ability to sustain high milk production and still rebreed promptly," she says.

These differences in breed characteristics suggest that the way in which feed nutrients are used, during lactation, may be different.

"We have initially examined this by feeding lactation diets with two different levels of protein, one above and one below, their expected requirements," she says.

Meishan sows with higher initial body fat reserves, used the extra protein to increase milk production and litter weight.

The white sows used extra dietary protein to conserve their own maternal body reserves.