1st Page



This article in

  1. Vol. 87 No. 1, p. 304-313
    Received: May 21, 2008
    Accepted: Aug 19, 2008
    Published: December 5, 2014

    2 Corresponding author(s):


Effects of a “step-up” ractopamine feeding program, sex, and social rank on growth performance, hoof lesions, and Enterobacteriaceae shedding in finishing pigs1

  1. R. Poletto*†,
  2. M. H. Rostagno*,
  3. B. T. Richert and
  4. J. N. Marchant-Forde*2
  1. USDA-ARS Livestock Behavior Research Unit, West Lafayette, IN 47907; and
    Department of Animal Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907


Increasing concern for animal well-being and food safety has stimulated the investigation of feed additives such as ractopamine (RAC), a β-agonist widely used to improve production performance of finishing pigs. The objective of this study was to determine effects of RAC feeding, delivered as a “step-up” program (5 mg/kg for 2 wk followed by 10 mg/kg for 2 wk), on growth performance, Enterobacteriaceae shedding, including Salmonella, and hoof lesions, also taking into account sex and social rank of pigs. A total of 64 barrows and gilts (balanced by treatment and sex) were assigned to pens of 4 (by sex) as either control (CTL) or RAC treatment. Social ranks (dominant, intermediate, and subordinate) of pigs in each pen were determined by behavioral observation during 48 h post-mixing. Fecal samples were collected once per week for 5 wk. At slaughter, the 32 dominant and subordinate barrows and gilts (16/sex) were examined for hoof lesions, and luminal contents from ileum, cecum, and rectum were collected. Pigs fed RAC had increased growth performance (P < 0.05) with social rank of animals affecting overall ADG (P < 0.05). Gilts gained more backfat than barrows when comparing to baseline values at both 10th and last ribs (P < 0.05), whereas loin eye area increased at a similar rate for both barrows and gilts (P > 0.10). No significant effect of RAC feeding was found on backfat or loin eye area (P > 0.10). At slaughter, RAC-fed pigs had greater BW (P < 0.05). Despite the positive effects of RAC feeding on growth performance, pigs fed the compound had a greater frequency of front and rear hoof lesions as did barrows and dominant individuals (P < 0.05). Detectable concentrations of Salmonella shedding were not identified at any time during the experiment. Enterobacteriaceae shedding concentrations from RAC-fed pigs peaked at the first week of feeding and progressively decreased until slaughter. At slaughter, rectal and cecal Enterobacteriaceae concentrations were less in RAC-fed pigs than in CTL pigs (P < 0.05). Social rank tended to affect gut Enterobacteriaceae populations of barrows more than in gilts (P < 0.10). The effects of RAC feeding on hoof soundness and Enterobacteriaceae populations in the gastrointestinal tract of finishing pigs warrant further investigation. It is also proposed that the integration of the social rank status of the individual into future studies should be considered, because it may affect treatment responses.

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