Effect of Source & Quantity of Dietary Vitamin D in Maternal & Creep Diets on Bone Metabolism & Growth in Piglets

by 5m Editor
13 July 2011, at 12:00am

Supplementation of the sow diet during pregnancy with 50µg/kg of either of the two vitamin D sources tested was adequate to meet the needs of the sow herself, the developing foetuses and for normal skeletal mineralisation and growth in her offspring, according to researchers based in Zurich, Switzerland.

The effect of the source and level of dietary vitamin D in the sow's gestation diet and the creep on growth and bone metabolism of the offspring were studied by A-K. M. Witschi of the ETH in Zurish and co-authors there and in Aarau and Basel. Their paper is published in a recent issue of the Journal of Animal Science.

Piglets are born with reduced plasma concentrations of 25-hydroxycholecalciferol (25-OH-D3) and are thus highly predisposed to vitamin D deficiency, explain the paper's authors. Furthermore, sow milk contains little vitamin D and the slow intestinal vitamin D absorption of sows limits the efficacy of dietary vitamin D supplementation. Hence, the neonatal piglet depends, to a large extent, on the vitamin D stores built up in foetal tissues from maternal sources.

The study was undertaken to evaluate whether the source and quantity of dietary vitamin D provided to the gestating and lactating sow, and also directly in the form of creep feed to the piglet, would influence the vitamin D status, growth performance and skeletal development of piglets.

A total of 39 primiparous and multiparous sows were randomly assigned to one of three dietary treatments (13 in each treatment), supplemented with either 5 or 50µg of the commonly used cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) or 50µg of 25-OH-D3 per kilogram of feed. By week 3 of lactation, piglets were offered a creep diet with vitamin D supplementation according to the treatment of the dam, and they were offered the same creep diets after weaning at day 35 of age until they reached a bodyweight of approximately 20kg.

When dietary 25-OH-D3 was provided, circulating concentrations of 25-OH-D3 in piglet serum increased (P<0.05) as early as day 21 and later at day 33 and 77, indicating greater body stores in those animals. Bone-breaking strength and cortical bone mineral content and density at the tibial mid-shaft of piglets were reduced (P<0.05) when vitamin D3 was supplemented at 5µg/kg compared with the bone traits of other groups but no differences (P>0.05) were observed between the two other groups.

After weaning, average daily feed intake (ADFI) was greater (P<0.05) and growth performance tended (P=0.08) to improve when doses of 50µg/kg were administered, regardless of the vitamin D source.

Witschi and co-authors concluded that supplementation of the diet with 50µg/kg of either source of vitamin D was adequate to meet the needs of gestating sows and in permitting the accumulation of vitamin D in foetal tissues, as well as for normal skeletal mineralisation and growth in the offspring.

Furthermore, they said, the markedly improved vitamin D status of piglets whose mothers received 25-OH-D3 possibly resulted from greater tissue reserves present at birth and a greater availability of vitamin D when released from those stores.


Witschi, A-K. M., A. Liesegang, S. Gebert, G. M. Weber and C. Wenk. 2011. Effect of source and quantity of dietary vitamin D in maternal and creep diets on bone metabolism and growth in piglets. J. Anim. Sci., 89 (6): 1844-1852.

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July 2011
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