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Piglets Need Better Immune Competence

Swine producers are facing regulatory issues such as reducing pharmacological levels of zinc oxide post-weaning and reducing the use of antibiotics. These demands increase the immune challenge for weaned piglets; however, there are nutritional solutions available to increase pig immune competence.

What’s the challenge to the piglets? Until weaning, the piglet’s immune status is driven by the sow through colostrum and milk. This is called passive immunity. It’s only after weaning that the pig starts building up its own active immunity. Inevitably, there’s a period after weaning where immune status of the piglet is low as passive immunity fades out and active immunity isn’t fully developed yet — this is the so-called immunological gap. Swine producers need to overcome (minimize) this gap through proper swine feeding and nutrition, management and better health.

While there isn’t a single solution to add to the feed for replacing pharmacological levels of zinc oxide, there is a need to focus on diet formulation and different feed additives for swine. Improved feeding of the lactating sow is an economically efficient way to improve the quality of piglets so they are heavier and more robust at weaning. Below are some important factors to consider:

  • It’s important that all piglets within a litter receive the required amount of colostrum. Research has shown that feeding certain feedstuffs to the sow will increase the amount of colostrum, and that feeding performance trace minerals like Availa®Sow increases the level of IgG in colostrum. This gives the piglets a good start and enhances their immune competence.
  • Weaning heavier piglets requires the sow to produce more milk. Performance trace minerals like Availa-Sow have shown good results: five comparative studies yielded on average 200 g more weaning weight per piglet and also a reduced number of lightweight piglets at weaning.
  • It’s possible to increase the antioxidative capacity of weaned piglets. This has been practiced for a long time with vitamin E. Feeding Availa®Se will boost the piglet’s antioxidant defenses as well. When feeding organic selenium, the selenium content within the piglet’s muscles increases, and then after weaning, when feed intake is low and demand for selenium is high, the piglet can mobilize these reserves.
  • It’s been demonstrated that weaning increases leaky gut. In particular, early weaning combined with stress has a negative impact on gut integrity. As a result, more endotoxins and other undesirable substances pass from the intestinal lumen into the bloodstream, which increases inflammation, and more reactive oxygen metabolites are generated. This means that in a period with low feed intake and reduced nutrient digestibility, which weakens the pig, the piglet also has to fight inflammation and the reactive oxygen metabolites. Research has shown that Availa®Zn helps reduce leaky gut and is a viable solution to replace feeding high amounts of zinc oxide post-weaning.
  • Vaccination is the right way to boost pig immune systems to make them more resilient against diseases. Looking to the future, where an increasing amount of money will be spent on vaccination, supplementing the swine diet with highly absorbable zinc like Availa-Zn has been shown to help make vaccines more effective.

Decreasing the immunological gap by making piglets more immune competent is part of future solutions aimed at maintaining good growth performance and health. Controlled research studies and practical tests have demonstrated that feeding performance trace minerals are a sound solution for boosting piglet immune competency.

You can read the full article on improving piglet immune competence here, and be sure to visit our website for more information on general swine feeding and nutrition.