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Interpretive Summary: Assessment of visceral organ growth in pigs from birth through 150 kg

By Anne Zinn

Visceral organs are essential for life in all animals due to their role in various aspects of digestive physiology, including the digestion of feedstuffs, absorption of nutrients, and metabolism of absorbed and circulating nutrients. A study recently published in the Journal of Animal Science assessed longitudinal changes that occur in visceral organ size as pigs develop from birth through 150 kg body weight. 

Overall, results of the present study showed that both absolute and relative measurements (weight, volume, and length) of visceral organs were dependent on the body weight and age of the pig; the absolute weights of the visceral organs increased with body weight and age over time. Results indicated that the majority of the visceral organs relative weight decreased from birth to 150 kg, which demonstrates that the visceral organs are a larger portion of the pig’s body weight from birth through the nursery period than the growing/finishing period; after the nursery period, other components of the body account for more of the pig’s body weight change.

These results provide baseline data for further assessment of the effects of a variety of factors, including diet, genetics, sex, maturity, and environment on visceral organ size and functional capacity in growing pigs from birth through market weight. Future studies should focus on whether the functional capacity (the ability to digest, absorb, and metabolize) nutrients parallels visceral organ size or not. 

The full paper can be found on The Journal of Animal Science webpage.