Proper nutrition fundamental for strengthening sow offspring
Sows have been bred to increase litter size and milk production, as well as improve other productivity traits. With such successful selection, litter size has increased and, in general, piglet birth weight has decreased. Low birth weight piglets are less likely to pull through the competition of a crowded udder and have more chances of pre-wean mortality and poor performance, which ultimately leads to high economic losses.
Research has indicated that increasing piglet birthweight can drastically increase survival rate. Moreover, pigs with a light weight at birth will also be lighter than their contemporaries throughout life. Every extra kilogram at weaning equals 4 extra kilograms at market. To assure production profitability and overall health of the pig, producers need to address the low birth weight challenge.
Another bottleneck in pig production is post-weaning growth performance. At weaning, pigs are exposed to several stress factors such as a new environment, a new diet, a mixture of different litters and exposure to new pathogens. The nursery phase is the cornerstone of an optimum lifetime growth performance. Therefore, it is imperative to boost the nursery piglet performance in order to improve the lifetime performance and increase profitability.
Although sometimes overlooked, research has confirmed that optimum trace mineral nutrition for sows has great potential to boost progeny performance, especially improve birth weight of piglets and post-weaning growth performance. Sows are now more prolific and there is a need for adjustment of the diet to compensate for the higher nutritional and physiological demand.
An experiment conducted at a commercial facility evaluated if feeding sows methionine analog chelated trace minerals fed as metal methionine hydroxyl analog chelate (MMHAC; Zn, Cu, Mn) would benefit the progeny. Sows were fed two dietary treatments containing either inorganic trace minerals (ITM) or organic trace minerals (MMHAC) at the same feeding level. A total of 18,000 sows up to parity 7 were used in this experiment.
There was an increase in the birth weight of piglets by nine percent when sows were fed diet containing organic trace minerals compared with sows fed control diet containing inorganic trace minerals (Figure 1).
Research corroborated that for every 100 grams increased in birth weight, the survival rate is increased by about 2 percentage units yielding around 0.30 more weaned piglets per litter. Therefore, feeding MMHAC to sows or gilts can increase piglet birth weight, which reduces pre-weaning mortality and allows piglets to have a running start to optimum lifetime growth performance. With MMHAC supplementation to sows, piglets are born heavier and stronger, and are better able to resist the challenges that hurt some of the key profit-making indicators.
Weaning is a stressful period where piglets are susceptible to environmental, nutritional and social challenges. Much is invested in nursery diets with the intent to alleviate these stressors and help piglets to thrive. Additionally, maternal nutrition is an important tool to help nursery piglets perform better. Research with poultry has shown that maternal supplementation with MMHAC helps modulate gene expression in their progeny for better gut health and better immunity. A swine study has also suggested that maternal nutrition can have positive impacts throughout the lifetime of the progeny. From the same trial above mentioned, a subgroup with 261 piglets born from sows fed either organic or inorganic trace minerals were selected for similar initial bodyweight to evaluate the post-weaning growth performance. All piglets across treatments had same initial bodyweight, and all were fed the same diet containing only inorganic trace minerals. This setting allowed to evaluate the impact of feeding MMHAC to sows on growth performance of nursery piglets.
The trial indicated that piglets from sows fed MMHAC or ITM performed differently during post-weaning period, even though they had same initial bodyweight (P = 0.27), and received the same nursery diets. Piglets born from sows fed MMHAC had 840 g more (P < 0.01) of bodyweight than piglets from sows fed ITM at 10 days post-weaning. Likewise, at 42 days post-weaning, piglets from sows fed MMHAC had 2.48 kilograms more body weight than piglets from sows fed ITM (Figure 2). Pigs heavier leaving the nursery will carry this bodyweight advantage throughout their lifetime, showing better growth rates than their contemporaries.
D0 (P = 0.27); D10 (P < 0.01); D42 (P < 0.01)
In conclusion, feeding MMHAC (Mintrex®, Novus International, Inc.) to sows or gilts can increase piglet birth weight, alleviate related challenges like pre-wean mortality and also further the bodyweight advantage in later stages of life. In addition, besides all investment in nursery diets, maternal nutrition can be an important resource to help nursery piglets to thrive. MMHAC supplementation in sow diets not only increases birthweight, but also improves post-weaning growth rate which altogether gives a mostly needed running start to piglets.
References available upon request.
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Article made possible through the contribution of Cassio Villela and Novus International, Inc.