Breed and age affect baseline immune traits, cortisol, and performance in growing pigs

M. A. Sutherland, S. L. Rodriguez-Zas, M. Ellis, J. L. Salak-Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It was hypothesized in these studies that differences would exist in baseline immune and performance measures among different breeds of pigs, and that these differences would be affected by age of the pig, Baseline immune, plasma cortisol (CORT) concentrations, and performance measures were determined among Berkshire (n = 36), Duroc (n = 18), Meishan (n = 54), Landrace × Yorkshire (White X; n = 36), and Yorkshire (n = 36) pigs at 4, 8, and 12 wk of age. All piglets were weaned at 17 to 21 d of age and moved to a common nursery environment. Total white blood cell (WBC), leukocyte differential, plasma CORT, immunoglobulin G (IgG) concentrations, natural killer cytotoxicity, neutrophil phagocytosis (PHAGO), and chemotaxis (CHTX) were evaluated. At all ages, plasma CORT was greatest in Meishan pigs, and least in Yorkshires (P < 0.05). Plasma IgG increased with age for all breeds (age: P < 0.01; breed × age: P < 0.005), except that in Meishans, IgG decreased. Natural killer cytotoxicity was greatest (P < 0.05) among Meishan pigs. There were breed × age interactions for neutrophil PHAGO (P < 0.001) and CHTX (P < 0.001). Overall, Yorkshire pigs showed the greatest (P < 0.05) percentage of PHAGO but the least (P < 0.05) CHTX. White X pigs had the greatest (P < 0.05) CHTX response. Berkshire pigs had the greatest (P < 0.001) numbers of neutrophils. At 12 wk of age, Meishan pigs had the least BW gain (P < 0.001), and Durocs had the greatest G:F (P < 0.001). There were no significant sex differences for immune (P ≥ 0.15), performance (P ≥ 0.20), or CORT (P = 0.70) measures. Pig breed and age influenced both baseline immune measures and plasma CORT in growing pigs, suggesting that pig breed and age are important factors influencing the response to various stressors or infectious challenges.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2087-2095
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2005


  • Age
  • Breed
  • Cortisol
  • Immune
  • Performance
  • Pig

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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