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Review article - Peer-reviewed, 2008

Stress and its influence on reproduction in pigs: a review

Einarsson, Stig; Brandt, Ylva; Lundeheim, Nils; Madej, Andrzej


The manifestations of stress, defined as a biological response to an event that the individual perceives as a threat to its homeostasis, are commonly linked to enhanced activity of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the activation of the sympathetic adreno-medullary (SA) system. Activation of the HPA system results in the secretion of peptides from the hypothalamus, principally corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH), which stimulates the release of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and beta-endorphin. ACTH induces the secretion of corticosteroids from the adrenal cortex, which can be seen in pigs exposed to acute physical and/or psychological stressors. The present paper is a review of studies on the influence of stressors on reproduction in pigs. The effects of stress on reproduction depend on the critical timing of stress, the genetic predisposition to stress, and the type of stress. The effect of stress on reproduction is also influenced by the duration of the responses induced by various stressors. Prolonged or chronic stress usually results in inhibition of reproduction, while the effects of transient or acute stress in certain cases is stimulatory (e. g. anoestrus), but in most cases is of impairment for reproduction. Most sensitive of the reproductive process are ovulation, expression of sexual behaviour and implantation of the embryo, since they are directly controlled by the neuroendocrine system.

Published in

Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica
2008, Volume: 50, article number: 48