A consortium of Australian, Belgian and Dutch researchers have published an article in Reproduction in Domestic Animals on the effect of progesterone supplementation administered to sows during early pregnancy. An analogue of progesterone , altrenogest, was used. The researchers conclude that administering altrenogest early in sow pregnancy has no effect on increasing embryo survival, and thus is not a remedy for low litter sizes.
Progesterone supplementation during early pregnancy may increase embryo survival in pigs. The current study evaluated whether oral supplementation with an analogue of progesterone, altrenogest (ALT), affects embryo survival.
A first experiment evaluated the effect of a daily 20-mg dosage of ALT during days 1-4 or 2-4 after onset of oestrus on embryo survival at day 42 of pregnancy. A control group (CTR1) was not treated. The time of ovulation was estimated by transrectal ultrasound at 12-h intervals.
Altrenogest treatment significantly reduced pregnancy rate when start of treatment was before or at ovulation: 25% (5/20) compared to later start of treatment [85% (28/33)] and non-treated CTR1 [100% (23/23)]. Altrenogest treatment also reduced (p < 0.05) number of foetuses, from 14.6 ± 2.6 in CTR1 to 12.5 ± 2.5 when ALT started 1-1.5 days from ovulation and 10.7 ± 2.9 when ALT started 0-0.5 days from ovulation.
In a second experiment, sows with a weaning-to-oestrous interval (WOI) of 6, 7 or 8-14 days were given ALT [either 20 mg (ALT20; n = 49) or 10 mg (ALT10; n = 48)] at day 4 and day 6 after onset of oestrus or were not treated (CTR2; n = 49), and farrowing rate and litter size were evaluated. Weaning-to-oestrous interval did not affect farrowing rate or litter size.
ALT did not affect farrowing rate (86% vs 90% in CTR2), but ALT20 tended to have a lower litter size compared with CTR2 (11.7 ± 4.1 vs 13.3 ± 3.1; p = 0.07) and ALT10 was intermediate (12.3 ± 2.9).
In conclusion, altrenogest supplementation too soon after ovulation reduces fertilization rate and embryo survival rate and altrenogest supplementation at 4-6 days of pregnancy reduces litter size. As a consequence, altrenogest supplementation during early pregnancy may reduce both farrowing rate and litter size and cannot be applied at this stage in practice as a remedy against low litter size.
The aricle is available behind a paywall at Reproduction in Domestic Animals.