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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Investigation of the relationship between farrowing environment, sex steroid concentrations and maternal aggression in gilts.

Maternal oestrogen and progesterone have been shown to be important in the initiation of maternal behaviour. Thirty-three Large White x Landrace gilts, housed in groups during pregnancy, were observed and aggressive interactions recorded. Individuals had jugular catheters implanted 14.5 (s.e. 0.34) days before their expected parturition date (EPD). Five days before EPD gilts were randomly allocated and moved to either a conventional farrowing crate (C; without straw, 16 gilts) or a pen (P; 2.1 x 3.1 m2; with straw bedding, 17 gilts). Blood samples were taken at frequencies determined by the proximity to farrowing onset. Piglets were removed at birth and returned 2 h after placental expulsion. The reaction of each gilt to her piglets was monitored. Gilts savaging piglets were sedated with azaperone (n = 8). There was no overall effect of farrowing environment on oestradiol and progesterone concentrations. The pre-farrowing ratio of progesterone to oestradiol was higher for (P) gilts (0.45 vs. 0.25, (P) vs. (C); S.E.D. 0.085, P < 0.05) as was their overall maximum oestradiol level (3.39 vs. 2.29 ng/ml, (P) vs. (C); S.E.D. 0.39, P < 0.01). In contrast to progesterone, oestradiol patterns varied considerably between individuals. Dominance rank value during pregnancy, but not levels of aggression, correlated positively to pre-farrowing oestradiol concentrations. Treatment with azaperone was not related to farrowing environment, piglet weight or litter size. Azaperone treated gilts showed a higher pre-farrowing oestradiol to progesterone ratio (0.55 vs. 0.29, +/- azaperone; S.E.D. 0.10, P < 0.05), significantly higher levels of oestradiol post-partum (0.7 vs. 0.19 ng/ml, +/- azaperone; S.E.D. 0.20, P < 0.001) and significantly lower levels of aggression during pregnancy (1.68 vs. 2.23 aggressive interactions/h, +/- azaperone; S.E.D. 0.15, P < 0.001). The results indicate that there are no major effects of farrowing environment on sex steroid concentrations. Maternal aggression under these conditions appears to be negatively related to aggression during pregnancy, but this is not reflected in plasma concentrations of sex steroids around parturition.[1]


  1. Investigation of the relationship between farrowing environment, sex steroid concentrations and maternal aggression in gilts. McLean, K.A., Lawrence, A.B., Petherick, J.C., Deans, L., Chirnside, J., Vaughan, A., Nielsen, B.L., Webb, R. Anim. Reprod. Sci. (1998) [Pubmed]
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