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Changes in back fat thickness during late gestation predict colostrum yield in sows

  • R. Decaluwé (a1) (a2), D. Maes (a2), I. Declerck (a2), A. Cools (a1) (a2), B. Wuyts (a3), S. De Smet (a4) and G. P. J. Janssens (a1)...


Directing protein and energy sources towards lactation is crucial to optimise milk production in sows but how this influences colostrum yield (CY) remains unknown. The aim of this study was to identify associations between CY and the sow’s use of nutrient resources. We included 37 sows in the study that were all housed, fed and managed similarly. Parity, back fat change (ΔBF), CY and performance parameters were measured. We obtained sow serum samples 3 to 4 days before farrowing and at D1 of lactation following overnight fasting. These were analysed for non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA), urea, creatinine, (iso)butyrylcarnitine (C4) and immunoglobulins G (IgG) and A (IgA). The colostrum samples collected 3, 6 and 24 h after the birth of the first piglet were analysed for their nutrient and immunoglobulins content. The technical parameters associated with CY were parity group (a; parities 1 to 3=value 0 v. parities 4 to 7=value 1) and ΔBF D85-D109 of gestation (mm) (b): CY (g)=4290–842a–113b. (R2=0.41, P<0.001). The gestation length (P<0.001) and the ΔBF between D109 and D1 of lactation (P=0.050) were identified as possible underlying factors of the parity group. The metabolic parameters associated with CY were C4 at 3 to 4 days before farrowing (a), and 10logC4 (b) and 10logNEFA (c) at D1 of lactation: CY (g)=3582–1604a+1007b−922c (R2=0.39, P=0.001). The colostrum composition was independent of CY. The negative association between CY and ΔBF D85-D109 of gestation could not be further explained based on our data. Sows that were catabolic 1 week prior to farrowing seemed unable to produce colostrum to their full potential. This was especially the case for sows with parities 4 to 7, although they had a similar feed intake, litter birth weight and colostrum composition compared with parities 1 to 3 sows. In conclusion, this study showed that parity and the use of body fat and protein reserves during late gestation were associated with CY, indicating that proper management of the sow’s body condition during late gestation could optimise the intrinsic capacity of the sow’s CY.


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