Giving the Best Start in Life

by 5m Editor
12 April 2011, at 12:00am

A field study on the effects of feeding Orego-Stim to sows from one week before farrowing and during lactation on the number and weight of piglets born and weaned from Meriden Animal Health.

Piglet immunity is compromised by delayed development and the gut of pre-weaned piglets is still physiologically immature for the successful adsorption of pre-weaning creep feeds. Consequently, the ultimate way of getting piglets their best start in life is as the way nature intended – through the teats of their sow.

Modern breeds of commercial sows have been bred to produce an average of 10 surviving piglets. It is important to consider that whatever the sizes of a litter, suckling piglets have access to enough of their sow’s milk.

There are a number of factors which affect this including number of viable functioning teats, physical placement and orientation of teats and conditioning of the sow to ensure that milk flow to the piglets is not impaired at any time after farrowing and prior to the onset of the weaning process.

Nutrition and therapeutic conditioning of the sow should also be considered as a priority. Nutrition comprises the quantity and quality of ingesting both macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) as well as access to clean water. Therapeutic conditioning takes the form of functional feed ingredients which have additional benefits as well as their nutritional value.

An example of a 100 per cent natural essential oil-based feed additive for weaning piglets is Orego-Stim (Meriden Animal Health). Orego-Stim gives piglets the best start in life by optimising feed intake and intestinal health during the piglet and sow inter-dependency period.


One of the key developmental stages of the piglet during this time is immunity. Antibodies or immunoglobulins (Ig) are the central part of the immune system. Recognition and eradication of different pathogens in mature animals requires diversity among antibodies.

Pigs have three main types of antibodies which have varying functions within the immune system and are present in three different biochemical forms, monomer (IgG), dimer (IgA) and pentamer (IgM). As well as the morphological shape differences in these antibodies, they also differ in size and of these three, only IgG is able to pass through the placenta from the sow to the growing piglet. However following birth, all three forms of antibodies are briefly available via the colostrum.

Viscous colostrum in the mammary glands of farrowing sows is composed of globulin, albumin and some casein. Components of IgG, IgA and IgM in the colostrum are highest at birth but the first few hours are critical for the piglet to obtain this first dietary immunity as the termination of the gut ability to absorb immunoglobulins, occurs primarily during the first day of life (Klobasa et al. 1987). This critical period can be thought of using the analogy of synchronising information from a computer network to a notebook computer, but with the constraints that it can only be done within the first 24 hours of the network being available. In the same way, humoral immunological ‘experiences’ of the sow are transmitted to the blood vascular system of the piglet by a mechanism dependent on the transfer of antibodies via the action of suckling during the first hours of life. Figures 1 and 2 show the decrease of protein and antibodies and increase of fat and lactose during the first day of life after farrowing. In order to ensure that this process functions in the best way possible, the health and nutritional status of the lactating sow is critical.

Figure 1. Composition of colostrum
(Klobasa et al. 1987)

Figure 2. Milk in the first day following birth
(Klobasa et al. 1987)

Trial Design

The trial was conducted in a commercial swine farm in Portugal with no history of disease. The trial was designed to evaluate the efficacy of Orego-Stim® Powder-supplemented feed in improving sow and weaned piglet performance. Twelve sows in each group a week prior to farrowing were fed either regular lactating feed or Orego-Stim supplemented at 500g per tonne until the piglets were weaned. For each sow, the total number of piglets born, numbers born alive and piglet weight at birth were recorded. From days 7 to 14, piglets from sow’s in both of the respective groups were fed either Orego-Stim in creep feed at either 500g per tonne or control creep feed without additives. Weaning occurred between 25 and 26 days of age, at which time number of piglets weaned per litter, litter weaned weight and average weaned weight were recorded in both groups. All housing accommodation and management practices were similar in both groups. During the course of the trial, there were no incidences of viral diseases to complicate interpretation of the results.



Although this trial did not attempt to duplicate the work of Klobasa and analyse differences in antibody concentrations in the two groups, the effect of improved immunity transferred both via the placenta of the mother and via her colostrum and milk cannot be disputed. This is because although similar average numbers of piglets were born in each group (11.2), the condition of these piglets, measured by their farrowing weight was significantly better in the Orego-Stim group (Figures 3 and 4).

The extra weight gain acquired by these newly born piglets can be accounted for by improved intestinal health of pregnant sows with fewer superficial pathogenic contaminated enterocytes in the intestinal lining, and a higher feed intake on account of increased appetite via the increased appetite of the sow with a more palatable feed. These positive nutritional benefits are transferred to the piglet as better nutritional breakdown of products in the blood of the sow crossing the placenta to feed the developing unborn litter.

But the recordable benefits of an improved immune system do not stop there. At weaning, further differences are observed between the two groups. Pre-weaning mortality is higher in the control group. The time in days to weaning is one day shorter in the Orego-Stim group. The average number of weaned piglets per litter is five per cent better in the Orego-Stim group. The average litter weight at weaning is 35 per cent better in the Orego-Stim group. The average piglet weight at weaning is 28 per cent better in the Orego-Stim group. These differences are due to improved immunity from sow to piglet via the colostrum as well as improved nutrition via lactose and fat from sows in the Orego-Stim group.


The gut of pre-weaned piglets is still physiologically immature for the optimal adsorption of pre-weaning creep feeds. At a cellular level, during this period the enterocyte cells are developing, their adsorption capabilities and beginning to get used to exposure to a range of dietary antigenic substances and indigenous environmental microbial products. During this sensitive pre-weaning period, it is sensible to ensure that piglets obtain beneficial growth from their sow’s consumption of dietary Orego-Stim, rather than directly consuming it themselves.

This article has shown how feed adsorption and growth can be maximised very successfully by integrating Orego-Stim into the diet of the lactating sows both prior to farrowing up until the weaning period of her litter. This is the best method of using Orego-Stim for weaning piglets rather than individual drenching young piglets with Orego-Stim in a milk or water mix.

In this commercial trial, there were noticeable effects in piglet weight at birth when Orego-Stim was used just one week prior to the expected farrowing date. To get the best embryonic growth of piglets and, therefore, best possible farrowing weights, it is recommended to use Orego-Stim one month prior to farrowing. During this final trimester stage of pregnancy, the unborn litter is growing at the fastest rate in between conception and farrowing, consequently this is when Orego-Stim maximises health and growth benefits.


Klobasa F. et al., 1987. Composition of sow milk during lactation. J. Animal Science, 64:1459-1466.

April 2011