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Reprod Domest Anim. 2007 Apr;42(2):135-42.

Effect of repeated stress treatments during the follicular phase and early pregnancy on reproductive performance of gilts.

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1
Animal Sciences Group, Wageningen University, AH Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Abstract

In pig husbandry, stress is being considered an important cause of impaired reproductive performance. Therefore, an experiment was performed to quantify effects of repeated stressors during the follicular phase and/or during early pregnancy on reproductive performance of gilts. Eighty-one cyclic gilts were assigned to one of four treatments, namely, stress treatment during the follicular phase (n = 20), stress treatment during early pregnancy (n = 20), stress treatment during both phases (n = 21) and no stress treatment (n = 20). All gilts were housed individually, but gilts in the stress treatments had no opportunity for visual or physical contact with other gilts. Further, animals in a stress-treatment were grouped for half an hour at the start of the treatment and during the treatment period nose-sling and an unpredictable feeding scheme were applied regularly. The extent of stress was monitored using heart rate measurements, behavioural observations and saliva cortisol levels during nose-sling fixation. Of the 81 gilts, 93% showed oestrus and were inseminated. Of these, 93% were pregnant at day 35, having 17.9 +/- 0.3 ovulations and 15.6 +/- 0.3 foetuses. These parameters were not affected by treatment. The stress treatment during the follicular phase tended to shorten cycle length (stress: 20.8 +/- 0.20; control: 21.2 +/- 0.17 days, p = 0.07) and weight of foetuses at day 35 (stress: 4.47 +/- 0.08 g; no stress: 4.69 +/- 0.08 g, p = 0.06); stress during early pregnancy did not affect any of the reproduction parameters. Percentage stereotypic behaviour, heart rate and saliva cortisol levels varied greatly between animals and between days, but did not differ between the treatments. No relationships were found between any of the reproductive parameters and any of the stress parameters (heart rate, cortisol, stereotypic behaviour). These results indicate that the repeatedly applied acute stressors did not generate a chronic stress-response and that these stressors during the follicular phase and/or during early pregnancy did not affect reproductive processes. It is not clear how these findings relate to suggested effects of stress(ors) on reproductive performance in pig husbandry.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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