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Sow and piglet factors determining variation of colostrum intake between and within litters

  • I. Declerck (a1), S. Sarrazin (a1), J. Dewulf (a1) and D. Maes (a1)


Colostrum intake has a short- and long-term beneficial impact on piglet performance and mortality. Sows’ colostrum production and piglets’ colostrum intake are limited and highly variable. The present study investigated sow and piglet factors explaining the variation of colostrum intake between and within litters. The CV for colostrum intake and birth weight (BWb) of all piglets within a litter was calculated to evaluate the variation of colostrum intake and BWb within a litter (colostrum and litter BWb heterogeneity, respectively). A total of 1937 live-born piglets from 135 litters from 10 commercial herds were included. Colostrum intake per piglet averaged 371±144 g and was affected by breed (P=0.02). It was lower when oxytocin was administered to the sow during parturition (P=0.001) and with increased litter size (P<0.001). It was higher when the interval between birth and first suckling decreased (t FS, P<0.001). Colostrum intake was positively influenced by BWb (P<0.001) and this association was more pronounced in piglets from Topigs (P=0.03) and Hypor (P=0.03) sows compared with piglets from Danbred sow breeds. The positive relationship between colostrum intake and BWb was more pronounced when t FS lasted longer (P=0.009). Heterogeneity in colostrum intake averaged 31±11%, it increased when oxytocin was applied during farrowing (P=0.004) and when stillbirth occurred (P=0.006). Colostrum heterogeneity was positively associated with litter size (P<0.001) and litter BWb heterogeneity (P=0.01). The positive relationship between colostrum and litter BWb heterogeneity was more pronounced when oxytocin was applied during farrowing (P=0.04). The present study demonstrated that oxytocin should be used cautiously in sows during farrowing. Farrowing and colostrum management should prevent or counteract the adverse influences of stillbirth, large and heterogeneous litters on colostrum intake and colostrum heterogeneity. The study also confirmed the expected association between BWb and colostrum intake and indicated that the impact of BWb on colostrum intake was different among breeds (Hypor v. Danbred) and dependent on piglets’ latency to first suckling. Hence, colostrum management should focus on low birth weight piglets, especially in some breeds, and low colostrum intake in low birth weight piglets can be counteracted by shortening the t FS.


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