Skip to main content Accessibility help

The growth performance, intestinal digestive and absorptive capabilities in piglets with different lengths of small intestines

  • M. Wang (a1), C. Yang (a1), Q. Y. Wang (a1), J. Z. Li (a1), Y. L. Li (a1), X. Q. Ding (a1), J. Yin (a1), H. S. Yang (a1) (a2) and Y. L. Yin (a1) (a2)...


The small intestine is an important digestive organ and plays a vital role in the life of a pig. We tested the hypothesis that the length of the small intestine is related to growth performance and intestinal functions of piglets. A total of 60 piglets (Duroc × Landrace × Yorkshire), weaned at day 21, were fed an identical diet during a 28-day trial. At the end of the study, all piglets were sacrificed, dissected and grouped according to small intestine lengths (SILs), either short small intestine (SSI), middle small intestine (MSI) or long small intestine (LSI), respectively. Positive relationships between SIL and BW, average daily gain (ADG), average daily feed intake (ADFI) and gain-to-feed ratios (G : F) were observed. Final BW, ADG, ADFI and G : F significantly increased (P < 0.05) in MSI and LSI piglets compared with SSI piglets. Short small intestine and MSI had greater jejunal mucosa sucrase and alkaline phosphatase activities (P < 0.05) than LSI piglets. The mRNA level of solute carrier family 2 member 2 (Slc2a2) in the jejunal mucosa of SSI piglets was the greatest. The MSI piglets had a greater (P < 0.05) ileal villus height than other piglets and greater (P < 0.05) villus height-to-crypt depth ratios than LSI piglets. However, the LSI piglets had a greater (P < 0.05) ileal crypt depth than SSI piglets. No significant differences in duodenal, jejunal, caecal and colonic morphologies were detected among the groups. Moreover, luminal acetate, propionate, butyrate and total short-chain fatty acid contents were greater (P < 0.05) in SSI and MSI piglets than those in LSI piglets. In addition, there was greater serum glucose concentration in MSI piglets than other piglets. Serum albumin concentration in SSI piglets was the lowest. In conclusion, these results indicate that SIL was significantly positively associated with growth performance, and in terms of intestinal morphology and mucosal digestive enzyme activity, the piglets with a medium length of small intestine have better digestion and absorption properties.


Corresponding author



Hide All
Adeola, O and King, D 2006. Developmental changes in morphometry of the small intestine and jejunal sucrase activity during the first nine weeks of postnatal growth in pigs. Journal of Animal Science 84, 112118.
Andersson, L, Haley, CS, Ellegren, H, Knott, SA, Johansson, M, Andersson, K, Andersson-Eklund, L, Edfors-Lilja, I, Fredholm, M and Hansson, I 1994. Genetic mapping of quantitative trait loci for growth and fatness in pigs. Science 263, 17711774.
Biviano, AB, Rio, CMD and Phillips, DL 1993. Ontogenesis of intestine morphology and intestinal disaccharidases in chickens (Gallus gallus) fed contrasting purified diets. Journal of Comparative Physiology B-Biochemical Systems and Environmental Physiology 163, 508518.
Cera, KR, Mahan, DC, Cross, RF, Reinhart, GA and Whitmoyer, RE 1988. Effect of age, weaning and postweaning diet on small intestinal growth and jejunal morphology in young swine. Journal of Animal Science 66, 574584.
Chen, H, Mao, X, Yin, J, Yu, B, He, J, Che, L, Yu, J, Huang, Z, Zheng, P and Michiels, J 2015. Comparison of jejunal digestive enzyme activities, expression of nutrient transporter genes, and apparent fecal digestibility in weaned piglets fed diets with varied sources of fiber. Journal of Animal and Feed Sciences 24, 4147.
Gao, J, Ren, J, Zhou, LH, Ren, DR, Li, L, Xiao, SJ, Yang, B and Huang, LS 2010. A genome scan for quantitative trait loci affecting the length of small intestine in a White Duroc x Chinese Erhualian intercross resource population. Journal of Animal Breeding and Genetics 127, 119124.
Hampson, DJ 1986. Alterations in piglet small intestinal structure at weaning. Research in Veterinary Science 40, 3240.
Hedemann, MS and Knudsen, KEB 2007. Resistant starch for weaning pigs—Effect on concentration of short chain fatty acids in digesta and intestinal morphology. Livestock Science 108, 175177.
Hodin, RA, Chamberlain, SM and Meng, S 1995. Pattern of rat intestinal brush-border enzyme gene expression changes with epithelial growth state. American Journal of Physiology 269, 385391.
Ji, YJ, Kong, XF, Li, HW, Zhu, Q, Guo, QP and Yin, YL 2017. Effects of dietary nutrient levels on microbial community composition and diversity in the ileal contents of pregnant Huanjiang mini-pigs. PLoS ONE 12, e0172086.
Koo, B, Kim, JW, de Lange, CFM, Hossain, MM and Nyachoti, CM 2017. Effects of diet complexity and multicarbohydrase supplementation on growth performance, nutrient digestibility, blood profile, intestinal morphology, and fecal score in newly weaned pigs. Journal of Animal Science 95, 40604071.
Li, SM, Wang, XG, Qu, L, Dou, TC, Ma, M, Shen, MM, Guo, J, Hu, YP and Wang, KH 2017. Genome-wide association studies for small intestine length in an F2 population of chickens. Italian Journal of Animal Science 17, 294300.
Marion, JL, Biernat, M, Thomas, F, Savary, G, Le Breton, Y, Zabielski, R, Le Huërou-Luron, I and Le Dividich, J 2002. Small intestine growth and morphometry in piglets weaned at 7 days of age. Effects of level of energy intake. Reproduction Nutrition Development 42, 339354.
Metzler-Zebeli, BU, Magowan, E, Hollmann, M, Ball, MEE, Molnar, A, Witter, K, Ertl, R, Hawken, RJ, Lawlor, PG, O’Connell, NE, Aschenbach, J and Zebeli, Q 2018. Differences in intestinal size, structure, and function contributing to feed efficiency in broiler chickens reared at geographically distant locations. Poultry Science 97, 578591.
Meyer, AM, Hess, BW, Paisley, SI, Du, M and Caton, JS 2014. Small intestinal growth measures are correlated with feed efficiency in market weight cattle, despite minimal effects of maternal nutrition during early to midgestation. Journal of Animal Science 92, 38553867.
Pluske, JR, Hampson, DJ and Williams, IH 1997. Factors influencing the structure and function of the small intestine in the weaned pig: a review. Livestock Production Science 51, 215236.
Pluske, JR, Williams, IH and Aherne, FX 1996. Maintenance of villous height and crypt depth in piglets by providing continuous nutrition after weaning. Animal Science 62, 131144.
Regassa, A and Nyachoti, CM 2018. Application of resistant starch in swine and poultry diets with particular reference to gut health and function. Animal Nutrition 4, 305310.
Sarikhan, M, Shahryar, HA, Gholizadeh, B, Hosseinzadeh, MH, Beheshti, B and Mahmoodnejad, A 2010. Effects of insoluble fiber on growth performance, carcass traits and ileum morphological parameters on broiler chick males. International Journal of Agriculture and Biology 12, 531536.
Tan, BE, Yin, YL, Liu, ZQ, Tang, WJ, Xu, HJ, Kong, XF, Li, XG, Yao, K, Gu, WT and Smith, SB 2011. Dietary -arginine supplementation differentially regulates expression of lipid-metabolic genes in porcine adipose tissue and skeletal muscle. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry 22, 441445.
Walker, DM 2009a. The development of the digestive system of the young animal II. Carbohydrase enzyme development in the young pig. The Journal of Agricultural Science 52, 357.
Walker, DM 2009b. The development of the digestive system of the young animal III. Carbohydrase enzyme development in the young lamb. The Journal of Agricultural Science 53, 374.
Wang, XC, Yang, HS, Gao, W, Xiong, X, Gong, M and Yin, YL 2016. Differential effects of dietary protein contents on jejunal epithelial cells along the villus-crypt axis in nursery piglets. Journal of Animal Science 94, 354358.
Yang, HS, Li, FN, Xiong, X, Kong, XF, Zhang, B, Yuan, XX, Fan, JX, Duan, YF, Geng, MM and Li, LL 2013. Soy isoflavones modulate adipokines and myokines to regulate lipid metabolism in adipose tissue, skeletal muscle and liver of male Huanjiang mini-pigs. Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology 365, 4451.
Yang, HS, Wang, XC, Xiong, X and Yin, YL 2016a. Energy metabolism in intestinal epithelial cells during maturation along the crypt-villus axis. Scientific Reports 6, 31917.
Yang, HS, Wu, F, Long, LN, Li, TJ, Xiong, X, Liao, P, Liu, HN and Yin, YL 2016b. Effects of yeast products on the intestinal morphology, barrier function, cytokine expression, and antioxidant system of weaned piglets. Journal of Zhejiang University-Science B 17, 752762.
Yin, YL, Baidoo, SK, Schulze, H and Simmins, PH 2001. Effects of supplementing diets containing hulless barley varieties having different levels of non-starch polysaccharides with β-glucanase and xylanase on the physiological status of the gastrointestinal tract and nutrient digestibility of weaned pigs. Livestock Production Science 71, 97107.
Zhang, H, Malo, C, Boyle, CR and Buddington, RK 1998. Diet influences development of the pig (Sus scrofa) intestine during the first 6 hours after birth. Journal of Nutrition 1288, 1302.
Zhou, XL, Kong, XF, Lian, GQ, Blachier, F, Geng, MM and Yin, YL 2014. Dietary supplementation with soybean oligosaccharides increases short-chain fatty acids but decreases protein-derived catabolites in the intestinal luminal content of weaned Huanjiang mini-piglets. Nutrition Research 34, 780788.
Zuo, JJ, Huang, ZY, Zhi, AM, Zou, SG, Zhou, XY, Dai, FW, Ye, H and Feng, DY 2010. Cloning and distribution of facilitative glucose transporter 2 (SLC2A2) in pigs. Asian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences 23, 11591165.


The growth performance, intestinal digestive and absorptive capabilities in piglets with different lengths of small intestines

  • M. Wang (a1), C. Yang (a1), Q. Y. Wang (a1), J. Z. Li (a1), Y. L. Li (a1), X. Q. Ding (a1), J. Yin (a1), H. S. Yang (a1) (a2) and Y. L. Yin (a1) (a2)...


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed