Sow Diet Affects Piglet Health at Weaning

CANADA - Research conducted by the Prairie Swine Centre shows the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the diet of the sow can affect how well her piglets will respond to immune challenges presented at weaning, writes Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 9 August 2011
clock icon 3 minute read

Researchers with the Prairie Swine Centre are conducting feeding trials to assess the impact of changes in the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the diet on the reproductive performance of the sow.

As part of that study scientists are looking at whether or not they can affect the immune response of the piglet by altering the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the diet of its mother.

Dr Denise Beaulieu, a research scientist nutrition with the Prairie Swine Centre, says we know increasing omega-3 intake offers a lot of benefits and this study is looking at the importance of the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio.

Dr Denise Beaulieu – Prairie Swine Centre

There's quite a bit of information in the literature that would lead us to believe that increasing the omega-3 fatty acids in the diet can have some effect on the immune response so what we do with a subset of the piglets is we give them an immune challenge.

We give them a little piece of bacteria that's not infectious but it does give the piglets a little bit of a fever a little bit of a fever for about 24 hours and then we see whether or not this fever response is different depending upon the diet of the sow.

We have found that weanling pigs, the ones that did have a higher omega-3, they actually had a higher fever response than those with a higher amount of omega-6 in their diets.

Our question now is, we don't even really know whether this is good or bad.

We're going to try and see whether this increased fever response is something that's of benefit to the piglet, wether it helps them overcome immune challenges in the barn or wether or not it really is an inappropriate response that will be taking a lot of energy from the piglet that they could be using to grow.

Dr Beaulieu expects the project to be completed by next December at which point the results of the work will be published.

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