The pig industries' main aim is to maximise the quantity of quality meat produced per sow per year while maintaining sow condition and health. In the breeding herd, the animal performance is directly related to the reproductive performance of the sows latter to be measured by the number of weaned piglets per sow per year. The objective of pig producers in breeding herds is to increase this number while providing finishing herds piglets with good growth rates and carcass traits.
If it is true that genes are crucial in determining fertility, performance and carcass traits - thus corroborating the importance of genetic breeding programmes - one should never forget that environmental factors will influence the way genes are expressed. Environmental factors manipulating gene's expression include diet, physical activity, infectious agents, chemicals, ultraviolet radiation and even emotions. A palatable diet guaranteeing the animal's nutrient requirements in its different stages which does not pose threats to the animals ingesting it is crucial for the animal production's success.
Mycotoxins are included in the toxic substances that often occur in animal feeds, posing a serious menace to animals ingesting them and acting directly and indirectly on pig fertility.
Reproductive failure, abortions, poor rearing ability and litter size are the cause for 45 percent and 59 percent of female pigs culled, in all parities and in gilts and second parities respectively. A high culling rate related to breeding problems has a big impact on the profitability of pig producers. A direct and important correlation can be made between mycotoxin-contamination and fertility problems; data collected in five Swedish pig farms showed that 85 percent of all sows presented zearalenone in the bile liquid. Furthermore, the level of this mycotoxin in the bile liquid was significantly higher in farms having fertility problems in comparison with control farms.
Because of its multiple origins and high economic impact, reflected by decreased animal performance and increased culling rates, reduced fertility is one of the most complex and puzzling problems dealt by swine producers.
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Article made possible through the contribution of Biomin.