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Modifying maternal diets to support piglet performance

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

Modifying maternal diets to support piglet performance

Related tags: sow, fiber, piglets, mortality, Zinc

The use of fiber in sow diets can increase the number of pigs born alive and can decrease preweaning mortality, but the effect may be source dependent, says an expert.

“Fiber is a way to control energy intake, but not all fibers can do the same thing. It seems that insoluble fiber sources may have the most beneficial effect but we need still to determine which of those is the most effective,” ​according to Dr Pedro Urriola, research associate professor, Department of Animal Science, the University of Minnesota.

He was speaking during the FeedNavigator webinar, Maternal Nutrition​, where he reviewed a range of maternal dietary interventions that can benefit the offspring in the swine sector.  

“We are trying to understand the physical and chemical properties of fiber such as viscosity could be tied to elements of gut health, or in the case of late gestating sows, to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a natural occurrence in late gestating animals, where the mother goes through a period of such resistance. However, that has an impact on subsequent lactation feed intake. Therefore, helping the mother cope with insulin resistance through the utilization of fiber could be of benefit. The type of fibers that have an impact on this insulin resistance appear to be those that have a high viscosity value,” ​continued Dr Urriola.

The industry is exploring how to boost sow productivity. Newly developed genetic lines result in high prolific sows with increasing litter sizes, but how that production trend can sometimes come with a cost, the challenge is keeping the piglets alive. So feed producers are trying to understand how they can enhance the nutrition of the mother to improve not only the profitability of the sow but also the quality of the litter.

Webinar Recording: Maternal Nutrition 

Trace minerals

According to other research work conducted by Dr Urriola and his colleagues, feeding sows high levels of zinc pre-farrowing decreases preweaning mortality of low-birth weight pigs.

Dr Juxing Chen, speaking on behalf of Novus International, which sponsored the webinar, talked about how feeding the sow chelated trace minerals during gestation can exponentially have an effect on the progeny through the modulation of embryo gene expression.

By supplementation of the sow’s diet with chelated trace minerals, said Dr Chen, it is possible to modulate the expression of the genes involved in gut development, immunity, and muscle development which would help the piglet survive the process of weaning.

Linking sow and piglet diets

Another way industry can improve pre-weaning mortality or post-weaning development of piglets is by coordinating the sow lactating diet and the piglet diet with elements that help piglets develop their capacity for growth post weaning, says Dr Urriola. 

He explored the benefits of using capsicum in this respect, showing how such an approach can reduce weaning stress.

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