Piglet Factors That Affect Colostrum Intake and Nursing Pig Outcomes, By Marie Blais from Southwest Ontario Veterinary Service

The newborn piglet is very dependent on adequate colostrum intake (CI) as a source of passive immunity including antibodies and white blood cells. Colostrum is also an important source of nutrition that helps to maintain body temperature. The amount of CI can differ between piglets within the litters of hyperprolific sows. These Danish researchers wanted to study the impact of individual piglet characteristics such as birth weight, birth order and neonatal asphyxia (measured via blood lactate) at birth on CI. They wanted to further determine the relationship between the CI and the passive immunity transfer (IgA IgG, IgM) and the growth performance of piglets prior to weaning. The study was carried out on twenty-four Danbred sows of the second-parity and their progeny (n = 460) were used. Piglet weight gain and the duration of colostrum suckling of the piglets was also assessed.

The researchers found the following:

  • Colostrum intake (CI) was negatively associated with asphyxia (P = 0.003), birth order (P = 0.005) and low birth weight (P < 0.001).
  • Average daily gain during the suckling period was greater among piglets with high CI (P = 0.001) and birth weight (P < 0.001).
  • Body weight at weaning at 24 days of age was positively associated with CI (P = 0.0004) and birth weight (P < 0.001).
  • Concentrations of IgG (P = 0.02), IgA (P = 0.0007), and IgM (P = 0.04) in piglets’ plasma at d 3 of age were positively associated with CI and were negatively associated with birth order (P < 0.001). (Not a surprise)

Take Home Messages:

  • Piglets’ individual characteristics at birth such as birth weight, birth order, state of oxygen deprivation have considerable effects on their Colostrum Intake. This study did not examine the influence of  “sow” factors that affect CI eg udder conformation
  • The researchers commented that this study highlighted that low birth weight and “last born” piglets are at high risk of birth asphyxia as compared with their heavier littermates and littermates born earlier in the farrowing process .
  • Understanding the factors that increase the risk of low colostrum intake can help to focus attention on piglets that are at increased risk of colostrum deprivation and a whole slew of negative consequences that can follow.

Submitted by Marie Blais , SW Production Team

Reference: D Vodolazska , T Feyera , C Lauridsen  The impact of birth weight, birth order, birth asphyxia, and colostrum intake per se on growth and immunity of the suckling piglets  Sci Rep . 2023 May 17;13(1):8057. doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-35277-3.