Influence of age at weaning and feeding regimes on the postnatal morphology of the porcine small intestine

Salah Al Masri, Hana Hünigen, Ahmad Al Aiyan, Juliane Rieger, Jürgen Zentek, Ken Richardson, Johanna Plendl

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


The small intestinal mucosal epithelium is the interface between ingested nutrients and their distribution networks in the underlying vasculature and lymphatics. This review reports on the small intestinal mucosal surface changes in the piglet from birth to the time of natural weaning (> 54 days). Despite numerous publications on the morphological characteristics of the gastrointestinal tract, there is limited comparability among these due to substantial methodological differences. The comparability of the methodological designs used in this review was achieved by relativizing the data to the day of weaning. Weaning at 35 days or later had little to no effect on the intestinal mucosa. Early weaning at 28, 21, 14, 5, 3, and 1 day after birth was associated with dramatic structural changes in the mucosa. A frequent observation after early weaning was prominent villus atrophy. While the crypt epithelium responds to redress these dramatic changes, villus recovery to near preweaning status may be slow. The earlier a piglet is weaned, the greater the villus atrophy and the longer the time to recovery. A causal relationship between reduced feed intake in the first days after weaning, independent of the diet, and the morphological alterations of the intestine is apparent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)186-203
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Swine Health and Production
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2015


  • Crypt
  • Intestine
  • Morphometry
  • Swine
  • Villus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Animals
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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