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Effect of Cross-fostering and Oral Supplementation with Colostrum on Performance of Newborn Piglets

18 March 2014

Colostrum supplementation of piglets within four hours of birth appears to be a good management strategy to improve litter performance, according to a new study from Barcelona, Spain.

The aim of a recent experiment at the Autonomous University in Barcelona was to study the effect on litter performance of two oral supplementation strategies on piglets born weighing 1.35kg or less (SP; CON: no oral supplementation; COL: supplementation with 15mL of sow colostrum orally administered to piglets within four hours after the farrowing was completed).

First-named author, R. Muns and colleagues explain in their paper in Journal of Animal Science that two levels of cross-fostering strategies, performed 24 hours after farrowing, were also studied (HL: litters fixed at 12 piglets, ensuring that less than 50 per cent of the piglets of the litter were SP; LL: litters fixed at 12 piglets, with most of the piglets of the litter being SP; in both cases the aim was to minimise moving piglets from one sow to another as much as possible).

The combination of the two management strategies described above resulted in a 2×2 factorial model.

Forty-six litters were used. Litters were allocated to one of the four treatments: CON-HL, CON-LL, COL-HL and COL-LL.

Piglets were weighed on days 1 and 19 post-partum. Mortality was recorded. On day 4 post-partum, a 2-mL blood sample was obtained from 79 SP piglets born from multiparous sows included in the experiment.

To obtain a negative control group, blood samples were obtained on day 4 postpartum from eight additional SP piglets that were separated from their mothers at birth and bottle fed with milk replacement for 12 hours.

LL sows had lower within-litter CV of bodyweight on day 1 than HL sows (16.2 versus 21.9 per cent ±0.91 per cent; P=0.003) but they did not differ for litter CV of bodyweight on day 19 (23.2 versus 23.4 per cent ± 1.72 per cent).

On day 19, HL sows had fewer dead piglets per litter than LL sows (0.80 versus 1.69 ± 0.307; P=0.022) and COL-HL sows had fewer dead piglets per litter than CON-HL (0.47 versus 1.14 ± 0.160; P=0.062).

Cross-fostering SP in the same litter did not prevent a litter’s CV of bodyweight from increasing at weaning.

Piglets from the COL group had higher immunoglobulin G (IgG) concentration than piglets from the CON group (P=0.001). However, piglets from the negative control group had lower IgG concentration than those from the COL and CON groups (5.41±2.320 versus 30.60±1.582 and 21.53±0.951mg per mL, respectively; P<0.001 in both cases).

Allocating small piglets to the same litter through cross-fostering had a negative effect on mortality and did not improve litter CV of bodyweight at weaning.

Colostrum supplementation of SP piglets was found by the researchers to improve IgG blood level on day 4. In addition, added Muns and colleagues, in non-homogenised litters, colostrum supplementation of SP piglets might be a good management strategy to improve litter performance.


Muns R., C. Silva, X. Manteca and J. Gasa. 2014. Effect of cross-fostering and oral supplementation with colostrums on performance of newborn piglets. J. Anim. Sci. 92(3):1193-1199. doi: 10.2527/jas.2013-6858

Further Reading

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March 2014

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