Use of Anions and Cations in Sows

It has been shown that balancing the diet for anions and cations plays an important role in preventing milk fever in dairy cows. Therefore, why not benefit from this knowledge and use it in sows too?
calendar icon 1 May 2009
clock icon 3 minute read

Of course sows are not usually afflicted with milk fever, but delayed farrowings resulting in increased numbers of still births are a common problem in sow herds (see Table I).

The causes include:

  • Tedious labour (too weak muscle tones) as a result of too low blood calcium levels.
  • Insufficient release of oxytocin, the hormone which elicits labour pains, milk flow and milk let-down.
  • Too narrow birth canals due to genetics, constipation and primiparous sows.
  • Parity number.

The correlation between too low blood calcium levels, decreased muscle tone and increased still births opens a second area in view of improving sow performance by using Biomin pHD. This product line aims to increase blood calcium levels to decrease still births.

Duration of farrowing (hours) Litters Number of still births (%)

< 4






> 6



Table I. Effect of duration of farrowing on still births (Hiihn 2004).

Beside already published effects on preventing urinary tract infections (UTI) and minimising related metritis problems - reducing the number of still births could be an additional way to improve the number of piglets weaned per sow per year (see Fig. I).

Fig. I. Breeding herd efficiency

Calcium metabolism The serum calcium level is regulated by hormones and has to be kept in narrow ranges (2.3 -2.8 mm01/1 in sows). Hormones involved in the control mechanism are parathyroid hormone and calcitonin as well as 1.25- (OH)2-vitamin D (active form of vitamin D3). When plasma calcium concentration declines, parathyroid hormone and 1.25-(OH)2-vitamin D are activated and calcium-resorption via the kidneys, calcium-adsorption from the digestive tract as well as bone mobilisation are increaSing. Since there is a permanent, overconsumption of calcium during gestation (because of a low demand) this mechanism is not trained - the parathyroid control mechanism is slowed down and cannot react in time on the changed/increased calcium demands peri-farrowing. Consequences are declining calcium blood levels which can not be balanced in time and in the end calcium is missing for the contraction of muscles and a deficit in calcium blocks the release of oxytocin, which is important for muscle contraction too. Declining calcium levels delay the farrowing process and in the end the livability of the piglets is decreasing and/or the piglets die prematurely.

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