Effects of feeding melatonin during proestrus and early gestation to gilts and parity 1 sows to minimize effects of seasonal infertility

Lidia S. Arend, Robert V. Knox, Laura L. Greiner, Amanda B. Graham, Joseph F. Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study tested whether supplemental melatonin given to mimic the extended nighttime melatonin pattern observed in the higher fertility winter season could minimize infertility during summer and fall in swine. Exogenous melatonin was fed during periods coinciding with follicle selection, corpus luteum formation, pregnancy recognition, and early embryo survival. Experiments were conducted at a commercial farm in 12 sequential replicates. In Exp. 1a, mature gilts (n = 420) that had expressed a second estrus were assigned by weight to receive once daily oral Melatonin (MEL, 3 mg) or Control (CON, placebo) at 1400 h for 3 wk starting before insemination at third estrus. In Exp. 1b, parity 1 sows (n = 470) were randomly assigned by lactation length to receive MEL or CON for 3 wk, starting 2 d before weaning. Follicles, estrus, pregnancy, and farrowing data were analyzed for the main effects of treatment, season (4-wk periods), and their interaction. Environmental measures were also analyzed for reproductive responses. In Exp. 1a, there was no effect (P > 0.10) of MEL on age at third estrus (203 d), follicle size after 7 d of treatment (5.0 mm), estrous cycle length (22.6 d), return to service (9.2%), farrowing rate (FR, 80.0%), or total born pigs (TB, 13.6). However, there was an effect of season (P = 0.03) on number of follicles and on gilts expressing estrus within 23 d of the previous estrus (P < 0.005). In Exp. 1b, there was no effect of MEL (P > 0.10) on follicle measures, wean to estrous interval, FR (84.0%), or TB (13.0). But MEL (73.5%) reduced (P = 0.03) estrous expression within 7 d of weaning compared with CON (82.0%) and season (P = 0.001) decreased FR by ∼14.0% during mid summer. Also, gilts and parity 1 sows exposed to low light intensity (<45 lx) during breeding had reduced conception (-8%) and farrowing (-15%) rates, compared with higher light intensity. Similarly, high temperatures (>25 °C) during breeding also reduced gilt conception rates by 7%. Although there was clear evidence of seasonal fertility failures in gilts and sows, MEL treatment did not improve fertility in gilts and reduced estrus in parity 1 sows. It is possible that differences in lighting and thermal environments before breeding could explain the differential response to MEL in sows and gilts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4635-4646
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 4 2019


  • gilts
  • infertility
  • melatonin
  • parity
  • seasonal
  • sows

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics

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