Free Access
Reprod. Nutr. Dev.
Volume 42, Number 4, July-August 2002
Page(s) 339 - 354
Reprod. Nutr. Dev. 42 (2002) 339-354
DOI: 10.1051/rnd:2002030

Small intestine growth and morphometry in piglets weaned at 7 days of age. Effects of level of energy intake

Julia Mariona, Marzena Biernatb, Françoise Thomasa, Gérard Savarya, Yves Le Bretona, Romuald Zabielskib, Isabelle Le Huërou-Lurona and Jean Le Dividicha

a  Unité Mixte de Recherches sur le Veau et le Porc, INRA, 35590 St-Gilles, France
b  The Kielanowski Institute of Animal Physiology and Nutrition, Polish Academy of Sciences, Jablonna, Poland

(Received 8 April 2002; accepted 2 July 2002)

Two trials involving a total of 56 pigs were conducted to examine the effects of weaning at 7 d of age (trial 1) and of energy intake level and length of post-weaning underfeeding period (trial 2) on small intestinal (SI) development and morphometry. At 3 d after weaning, weight of the SI and mucosa (g/kg body weight) and villous height along SI were reduced by 20, 36 and 41%, respectively, compared to the day of weaning. Intestinal morphometrical changes are dependent on SI site and days post-weaning. Villous atrophy on d 3 and recovery on d 14 post-weaning were greater and occurred earlier in the proximal than in the medial and distal SI. Villous height was dependent on the level of energy intake which explains 56% of the variations in proximal SI villous height in weaned pigs and 73% when data of the sow-reared pigs were included in the analysis. Moreover, after 4 d of refeeding, underfed piglets showed similar villous characteristics to piglets fed a continuously high feeding level after weaning stressing that capacities of intestinal restoration were not affected by the length of the post-weaning underfeeding period. Overall, the present results suggest a spatial and temporal effect of weaning on villous atrophy and recovery, and that the level of energy intake is a major factor accounting for the post-weaning villous height.

Key words: weaning / level of food intake / small intestine / morphometry / piglet

Correspondence and reprints: Jean Le Dividich

© INRA, EDP Sciences 2002