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4-minute read

Performance Trace Minerals Help Reduce Direct and Indirect Costs of Sow Mortality

A sow and piglets in a gestation crate.
Dr. Zachary Rambo

Global RNS Species Leader – Swine
Zinpro Corporation

The job swine producers are asking their sows to perform is the same today as it was three to five years ago. The main difference is that today, sows are being asked to do that job with a greater level of productivity than in the past as the industry looks for larger litters of heavier piglets. What this has done is put more biological pressure on sows today than five years ago.

At the same time, swine producers face a number of challenges when it comes to sow health, including:

  • Farm biosecurity. Pigs don’t move diseases; people and equipment do.
  • Farm labor. Many systems don’t have enough workers on sow farms to get everything done on a day-to-day basis.
  • Gilt development programs. We need to make sure gilts have adequate exposure to known pathogens that are present in a sow farm before entering. We also must ensure that they’re not bringing any new pathogens into the farm.

Five years ago, the average sow mortality rate was around 5%, but it has climbed to 12% today. Along with an effective management strategy and an optimal environment, trace mineral nutrition is a vital contributor to sow health and well-being. Now, let’s take a look at the financial ramifications of high sow mortality and how trace mineral nutrition can help reduce it.

Sow Mortality: Direct and Indirect Costs

There are two types of costs that swine producers must analyze when looking at sow mortality rates: direct cost and indirect costs.

The direct cost is the amount of money it costs to buy and raise a replacement gilt. Let’s assume a producer has 1,000 sows and the cost of entering a replacement gilt at the sow farm is $300. A 10% sow mortality rate would incur direct costs of about $30,000 per year, or $30 per sow per year. After placement in the sow farm, we still must wait for that gilt to farrow. Considering gestation length alone at 114 days and assuming a labor and facility cost of $2 per sow per day, the total cost increases to more than $500 per entered female, or $50 per sow.

Learn More: Understanding the Hidden Losses from Sow Replacement

Indirect costs are a bit harder to quantify because they largely consist of lost or delayed profits. For example, we know that progeny from gilts compared to progeny from sows have poorer gain and feed conversion and higher rates of mortality through the wean-to-finish system. Additionally, P1 gilts are going to have longer wean-to-service intervals and poorer conception rates. Therefore, losing a mature sow and replacing it with a gilt will temporarily lower productivity and profitability until that gilt matures.

One way a swine producer can help reduce sow mortality rates and reduce costs in their system is to include performance trace minerals in the sow nutrition program. Research has shown that performance trace minerals can reduce mortality by up to 4%, resulting in significant financial returns.

Trace Minerals Improve Sow Health and Immunity

Trace minerals are a small and often overlooked part of animal nutrition but play a critical role in driving all of the enzymatic processes that carbohydrate and protein sources use in metabolism. Trace minerals also play a very critical role in the synthesis of the different immune components and reactions.

For example, zinc is king when it comes to immune function and response. It is involved in the innate immune response and the synthesis of pro-inflammatory cytokines, as well as the active immune response through the formation of T and B cells that give sows lasting protection against different pathogens. Additionally, zinc is intimately involved in epithelial integrity to keep pathogens out of the organs, the gastrointestinal tract and the respiratory tract of the sow.

Copper, manganese and selenium all produce superoxide dismutase, which contributes to an animal’s antioxidant function. Copper supports aspects of both the innate and the adaptive immune responses while manganese also supports functions of the innate immune response.

Zinpro Performance Minerals Boost the Pig Immune System

Feeding performance trace minerals in your sow nutrition program can help reduce mortality rates by improving your sows’ abilities to mount a rapid and robust inflammatory response to immune challenges. Zinpro Performance Minerals® — the only performance trace minerals on the market — are complex trace minerals bonded to an amino acid that utilize a unique path to absorption: the amino acid transporter. They minimize the various antagonistic interactions to which other trace mineral sources are subject and, therefore, reach the intestinal lining. 

Learn More: How Performance Trace Minerals Are Absorbed

To learn more about including performance trace minerals like Availa®Sow in your sow diets, contact your Zinpro representative today.

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