Some studies have suggested that a decrease in weaning age could improve feed efficiency and growth rate while lowering the transfer of growth-depressing pathogens to offspring. However, the early weaning system has disadvantages in wean-to-finish average daily gain (ADG), mortality rate and aggressive behaviors. The other important factor to post-weaning growth is the weaning weight. The growth rate tends to be higher in large pigs than in small pigs, and the weaning weight and its variation are influenced by the birth weight and its variation in piglets. These factors have been well studied, however research on their effects on meat quality is lacking. The aim of this study was to compare the meat quality of finishing pigs classified by various ages and weights at weaning and to establish the interaction effect of weaning age and weight on pork quality.
A total of 468 piglets were obtained from 57 sows and four boars and grouped by age at weaning (D21, 18–24 days; D28, 25–32 days). All pigs were allocated randomly to wean-to-finish pens (12 pigs per pen) within a block. Each weaning group was subdivided into three weight groups (L, M and H) according to weaning weight. For D21, the weights were 5.9 ± 0.1 kg (L), 7.3 ± 0.1 kg (M) and 9.0 ± 0.3 kg (H). For D28, the weights were 5.8 ± 0.1 kg (L), 7.4 ± 0.1 kg (M) and 9.2 ± 0.1 kg (H). The parameters recorded after animals slaughter were pH and meat colour at 45 min and 24h, marbling, water-holding capacity and texture.
The D28 group had heavier carcass weight, redness and yellowness, but had lower marbling scores and less drip loss than the D21 group (P < 0.05). The pigs with a light weight at weaning had higher carcass weights and lower yellowness than did pigs with a medium or heavy weight at weaning (P < 0.05). Weaning age was found to have a negative correlation with carcass weight and drip loss (P < 0.05).
It was concluded that carcass and meat quality traits in pigs were significantly related to the age and weight at weaning. Therefore, it was found that piglet weaning age and weight are no less important than post-weaning growth performance and behavior, with regard to carcass traits and meat quality.
KO, K. B., Kim, G.D., Kang, D.G., Kim, Y.H., Yang, I.D. and Ryu Y.C. 2015. The influences of weaning age and weight on carcass traits and meat quality of pigs. Animal Science Journal, 86:428-434. DOI: 10.1111/asj.12314