Research Targets Nutritional Strategies for Low Birth Weight Piglets


Farmscape for July 8, 2020

Full Interview 14:42 Listen

By improving nutritional strategies scientists hope to reduce mortality and improve the performance of low birth weight piglets.
Improved sow genetics have resulted in tremendous increases in the number of piglets born per litter, resulting in decreased average birth weights. To improve the health of lower birth weight piglets, the University of Saskatchewan and the Prairie Swine Centre are examining the “impact of early life nutrition on nutrient utilization, physiology and health status.” Dr. Michael Wellington, a postdoctoral research fellow with the University of Saskatchewan and the Prairie Swine Centre, explains low birth weight piglets are at a disadvantage when competing for resources with their heavier littermates, resulting in lower weaning weights and reduced lifetime productivity.

Clip-Dr. Michael Wellington-University of Saskatchewan-Prairie Swine Centre:
We believe that inadequate nutrient supply due to poor intake is the largest contributor to reduced performance in both the pre and the postweaning period. Therefore the majority of the nutritional intervention strategies that we use on the farm are aimed at improving animal performance of these low birth weight pigs and also increasing their feed intake and then the quality of nutrient that we supply.
However, we know that not all these piglets will respond to the additional nutrient supply, suggesting to us that there may be variability in performance due to some physiological mechanisms that are happening.

For us, it’s critical that we understand the physiological processes and mechanisms that will lead to differences in how the low and the normal birth weight piglets respond to the same nutrient interventions. This is important for us to be able to develop effective nutritional programs to be able to target specific animals. We are doing this to be able to distinguish between physiological changes that occur as the result of birth weight versus changes that occur as the result of reduced access to nutrition using different analytical techniques.

Dr. Wellington is confident a greater understanding of the biological processes will lead to new nutritional strategies that will reduce low birth weight piglet mortality and enhance animal health and profitability.

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