Prevalence of Iron Deficiency in Suckling Piglets - Ontario Pork - Active Research

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Prevalence of Iron Deficiency in Suckling Piglets

Prevalence of Iron Deficiency in Suckling Piglets

Project 13-012 - Researchers: Bob Friendship and Terri O’Sullivan, University of Guelph

Research Summary – 13/012
Researcher: Bob Friendship and Terri O’Sullivan, University of Guelph
Funded in 2013 and completed in 2015
Graduate students: Amanda Kubik, MSc University of Guelph

Research Topic: Prevalence of Iron Deficiency in Suckling Piglets 

Providing piglets with supplemental iron is a widely adopted practice on modern swine farms. Recently, University of Guelph researchers questioned whether current iron supplementation practices are sufficient for the requirements of the modern pig. They studied piglets on 20 Ontario farms, all providing iron injections in the first week of life. Researchers measured piglets’ weight and blood iron levels both at weaning, and 3 weeks post-weaning. Their results showed that 95% of trial farms weaned iron deficient and/or anemic piglets, with the number of deficient piglets per farm increasing in the 3 weeks post-weaning. They found that larger piglets at weaning were more likely to be iron deficient than smaller piglets, likely the result of increased iron requirements due to rapid growth and higher blood volume.  These deficient or anemic piglets tended to have slower growth rates in the following three weeks post weaning compared to non-deficient piglets. These results suggest that the standard dosage of 200mg of iron is insufficient for rapidly growing piglets, and further research must be done to determine if a higher dose or a follow up iron injection would remedy this deficiency. Lastly, researchers found that the nursery diet can also impact iron availability. Trial pigs fed starter diets containing high levels of zinc oxide for control of post-weaning diarrhea had a higher chance being anemic compared to those with diets containing low, nutritional levels of zinc. As zinc and other heavy metals interferes with iron absorption, their diet inclusion must also be considered when trying to prevent iron deficiency and anemia is growing pigs. 

THESIS: An investigation of various hematological and biochemical parameters to assess the health of nursery pigs