The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of 20-day litter weight on behavior and heart rate variability (HRV) of piglets under stress.
Forty four original litters were categorized as high litter weight (HW) litters (n = 22) and low litter weight (LW) litters (n = 22) by 20-day litter weight. From each original HW litter, three males and three females were randomly selected after weaning and the 12 piglets from two original litters with similar age of days were regrouped into one new high litter weight (NHW) litter (11 NHW litters in total). The original LW litters were treated with a same program, so that there were 11 new low litter weight (NLW) litters as well. The latencies to first fighting, fighting frequencies and duration within three hours were recorded after regrouping and the lesions on body surface within 48 hours were scored. Besides, HR (heart rate, bpm, beats per minute) and activity count (ACT), time domain indexes and frequency domain indexes of the piglets were measured in an isolation trial to analyze the discrepancy in coping with stress between the original HW and LW litters.
The results exhibited that piglets from the HW litters launched fighting sooner and got statistically higher skin lesion score than those from the LW litters (p = 0.03 and 0.02, respectively). Regarding the HRV detection, compared with the HW litters, the LW litters exhibited a lower mean HR (p<0.05). In the isolation test, a highly significant higher ACT value was observed between the HW litters, compared to the LW litters (p<0.01). Significant differences were observed in standard deviation of R-R intervals, standard deviation of all normal to normal intervals, and most frequency-domain indicators: very low-frequency, low-frequency, and high frequency between the HW and LW litters as well. The difference in LF:HF was not significant (p = 0.779).
This study suggests that compared with litters of low 20-day litter weights, litters with higher 20-day litter weight take more positive strategies to cope with stress and have stronger HRV regulation capacity; HW litters demonstrate better anti-stress and adaptation capacity in the case of regrouping and isolation.