The objective was to evaluate the effects of perinatal dexamethasone (Dex) treatment on postnatal growth in pigs. Experiment 1: 42 piglets were assigned according to birth weight and sex to receive either Dex (1 mg/kg body weight) or sterile saline (Control; equivalent volume) i.m. within 1 h of birth. Body weights were recorded weekly and at sacrifice (day 18). Birth weights (1.43 ± 0.05 kg) did not differ between treatment groups (P > 0.19). At day 18, Dex pigs were heavier than Control pigs (5.46 ± 0.24 and 4.45 ± 0.26 kg, respectively). Serum IGF-1 was 17.3% higher in Dex pigs (P < 0.04) compared to Controls. For serum GH, there was a treatment x sex interaction (P < 0.04) with GH being 51% lower in Dex males compared to Control males, and no differences in females. Experiment 2: 71 pigs were assigned according to birth weight and sex to receive either Dex (2 mg/kg body weight) or sterile saline (Control; equivalent volume) i.m. within 1 h of birth. Body weights were recorded weekly until weaning (day 21) and then every 14th day until market weight. Birth weights (1.53 ± 0.03 kg) did not differ (P > 0.35) between treatment groups or sexes. Dexamethasone increased growth from birth to market weight by 4.15%. Carcass weights were not different (P > 0.34) between Dex (89.9 ± 1.17 kg) and Control pigs (88.6 ± 1.36 kg). Overall, Dex enhanced growth in pigs from birth to market weight with minimal effects on carcass and meat quality. © 2002 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.
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