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Anim Reprod Sci. 2010 May;119(1-2):68-75. doi: 10.1016/j.anireprosci.2009.11.004. Epub 2009 Nov 18.

Proportion of the litter farrowed, litter size, and progesterone and estradiol effects on piglet birth intervals and stillbirths.

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USDA, ARS, Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, Clay Center, NE 68933, United States.


Stillbirth in swine ranges from 2 to 9%, resulting in a significant loss of piglets. Previous studies clearly indicate a relationship between prolonged birth intervals and stillbirth, but factors influencing birth intervals are not fully known. To characterize birth intervals and stillbirth, farrowing was recorded during three farrowing seasons. Blood samples were collected on d 110 and d 113 of gestation, and were assayed for progesterone and estrogen. Relationships between estrumate (cloprostenol sodium, an analogue of prostaglandin F(2alpha)) usage, litter size, proportion of the litter farrowed, progesterone and estrogen concentrations, birth intervals, and stillbirth were analyzed using regression analysis. A clear relationship between birth intervals and stillbirth was observed. Stillbirth rate was unaffected by birth intervals of <1 h, and increased (P < 0.01) for birth intervals >1 h. A significant negative association between litter size and birth intervals was observed (P < 0.01). Birth intervals were unaffected by proportion of the litter farrowed until the last piglet in the litter, whose birth interval increased dramatically (1.5-fold; P < 0.01). Stillbirth rates increased as proportion of the litter farrowed increased, and a dramatic increase in stillbirth occurred for the last piglet in the litter. Neither d 110 nor 113 plasma progesterone concentrations were associated with litter size, birth intervals, or stillbirth rates. Curvilinear relationships were present between d 110 or 113 plasma estradiol concentrations and litter size. However, neither d 110 nor 113 estradiol concentrations were associated with birth intervals or stillbirth rates. These results indicate that (1) birth intervals greater than 1 h are associated with increased stillbirth; (2) larger litter size reduces birth intervals; (3) the last piglet in the litter has both a prolonged birth interval and increased risk of stillbirth; (4) plasma progesterone before farrowing does not influence birth intervals or stillbirth; and (5) plasma estradiol does not influence birth interval or stillbirth, despite a positive relationship between litter size and plasma estradiol. An understanding of the effects of litter size and proportion of the litter farrowed on birth intervals might be exploited to decrease stillbirth in piglets.

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