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5-minute read

Trace Minerals Can Counter Reproductive Problems in Swine

Sow nursing piglets.
Dr. Mark Wilson

Swine Reproductive Physiologist
Zinpro Corporation

Lameness has been linked to a significant decrease in sow productivity and is known to increase the odds of early removal from the herd. Sows culled for lameness are often younger sows, which affects herd parity structure, negatively impacting litter size and piglet survival, and disrupts herd health status.

The swine industry has long examined the relationship between lameness and its effects on reproductive performance and sow longevity. The findings demonstrate that:

  • Lame sows produce litters of smaller size piglets along with a smaller number of pigs born alive
  • Lame sows have a reduced longevity and reduced total number of pigs per sow lifetime in a herd.
  • Lame sows have lower IgG in their colostrum and have piglets with lower weaning weights. 

Clearly, this data reveals significant differences in survivability, parity longevity and farrowing performance between lame and non-lame sows. So why is this happening?

Lameness is often a result of inflammation, to combat this inflammation the sow’s immune system is activated which uses nutrients and energy that would otherwise be used for other productive functions. At the same time, there is typically a decrease in feed intake, and this in turn means the sow is consuming fewer nutrients. This decrease in nutrients, and the fact that the immune system is taking more energy to help with the healing process, means there are fewer resources available for the reproductive system.

Studies show that including the right trace minerals in swine diets can help minimize threats in sow reproduction caused by lameness. 

The Right Trace Minerals Can Compensate for Stressors

When demand increases for trace minerals, solutions include increasing trace mineral supply, improving the bioavailability of trace minerals in feed, or both. Studies have shown that feeding zinc, manganese and copper connected (bound) to amino acids — otherwise known as performance trace minerals — can help compensate for demands on the sow’s metabolism caused by lameness. Even in healthy pigs, performance trace minerals have improved reproduction outcomes.

When zinc, manganese and copper were supplemented to sows in a controlled experiment, results showed a decrease in claw lesions for sows housed in gestation crates. These sows were fed gestation and lactation diets that were identical except for the source of zinc, manganese and copper.

The sows were fed diets containing a partial substitution of the inorganic trace minerals with performance trace minerals (50 ppm of Zn, 20 ppm of Mn, 10 ppm of Cu): The remainder of the supplemental trace minerals were provided by inorganic sulfate sources that were also used in the control diet (125 ppm of Zn, 40 ppm of Mn, 15 ppm of Cu).

Results indicated that the sows fed performance trace minerals had less lesions on the hind limbs, lateral claws and fewer number of total lesions. Consistent with university research, the number and severity of lesions decreased with the addition of Zinpro Performance Minerals (Availa®Sow) to the diets in commercial production systems.

Table showing the effect of Availa-Sow on improving claw health.

Zinpro has research demonstrating the mechanisms of why sows that have inflammation (lameness) can affect claw horn tissue. Inflammatory cytokines decrease the proliferation of keratinocytes, which decreases the ability to repair damaged horn tissue. The Influence of performance trace minerals in decreasing inflammatory responses gives an advantage over other sources of trace minerals in the healing process in the hoof. Ultimately, this leads to increased sow longevity and less sows being culled due to lameness.

Decreasing culling and death loss due to lameness can have vast financial benefits for swine producers. If we can reduce this number by only 10 sows per 1000 (1%), this results in more than $3,000 saved in replacement gilt costs. On one 30,000 sow farm, including Availa-Sow in their swine nutrition program, along with some animal management alterations, reduced the number of sows culled for lameness by nearly 58%.

Line graph showing the effect of Availa-Sow on sows culled due to lameness.

By reducing inflammation, Zinpro Performance Minerals® also reduced somatic cell count in colostrum and milk by 65% through 25 days in milk. This led to 14% increase in litter weaning weight. Additionally, supplementing sow nutrition and feeding programs with Availa-Sow improved IgG concentrations in colostrum by 25% and in the piglets serum by 7% in 2-day-old piglets.

Bar graphs showing the effect of Availa-Sow on somatic cell count and piglet weaning weight.
Bar graphs showing the effect Availa-Sow on colostrum and piglet serum.

By reducing somatic cell count and increasing IgG in colostrum and milk, feeding Availa-Sow to sows improved piglet weaning weights by 3% on average.

Bar graphs showing the effect of supplementing sow diets with Availa-Sow on piglet weaning weight.

Clearly, there is an economical performance benefit to improved trace mineral nutrition when performance trace minerals are fed to the sow. The data demonstrates that feeding sows performance trace minerals decreases claw lesions and improves lactation performance, reproductive performance and longevity compared to feeding solely inorganic trace minerals.

Claw health is crucial to the overall well-being of the sow. If not properly treated, negative claw conditions can lead to lameness and may result in further complications. This causes a devastating loss to swine producers by decreasing reproductive performance and longevity, as well as significantly increasing cost of production. By improving our understanding of the factors that contribute to sow lameness and inflammation, we can prevent these circumstances from occurring and avoid the many downfalls of lameness.

Studies show feeding the right type and quantity of trace mineral complexes helps guard against conditions that reduce reproduction performance such as lameness, heat stress and leaky gut while maximizing performance in healthy sows. To learn more, read this Feedstuffs article.

To learn more about feeding Availa-Sow in your swine nutrition program, contact a Zinpro representative today.

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