N&H TOP LINE: Healthy sows perform better

Proper trace mineral nutrition can increase longevity in sow herds. ALSO: Choline deficiency during pregnancy influences sow's milk composition.

Foot lesions can bleed away profits on swine operations, but many foot problems can be prevented by proper trace mineral nutrition in sow diets.

Copper, zinc and manganese are the three trace minerals sows need the most. Feeding the right amounts of these minerals is essential to the longevity and reproductive success of sows, according to information from the Feeding for 30 program, which involves Purina Animal Nutrition, Zinpro Corp. and DSM Nutritional Products.

After reproductive failure, sow lameness is the next most common reason sows are culled from herds. An average of 30-35% of sows in any given herd experience lameness. Producers should target that number to be just 10% of their herd, the announcement said.

Early culling of sows also cuts into profits. This is due to a potentially decreased farrowing rate, smaller litters and limited progeny performance, which are all traits linked to early-parity sows.

Mike Hemann, swine account manager at Zinpro, agreed about the importance of decreasing turnover in the sow herd.

“We know that a sow must reach her fourth parity to realize her economic potential,” he said. “By working to decrease lameness in the sow herd, we can increase the longevity in sows and, in turn, can see more sows reach their economic potential.”

As with any animal, when pigs feel their best, they show it through their positive performance. “Sows that are healthy and not lame are getting up and going to the feeder,” Hemann said. “They are maximizing feed intake, providing the proper nutrients to their gestating litters and piglets throughout the gestation and lactation periods, respectively.”

One indicator of good sow performance is low somatic cell counts. Zinpro has conducted trials that showed that sows fed the proper amounts of copper, zinc and manganese trace minerals experience lower somatic cell counts.

“This is tied directly to the white blood cell count in the sows. They have less inflammation and are overall healthier," Hemann noted. "This can lead to improved performance in both the sows and pigs.”

Recognize foot challenges. Several kinds of lesions can affect sow health. Keeping a close eye on overall sow foot health is imperative for producers. Watch for these foot lesions:

* Slightly longer-than-normal toes can eventually affect the sow's gait when walking.

* Improper dew claws can be slightly longer than normal and can even extend to the floor surface when the pig is standing. They can also be torn or completely missing.

* Heel overgrowth and erosion occur when there are cracks, overgrowth and/or erosion in the sow's soft heel tissue.

* Heel-sole crack occurs when there is a separation at the juncture of the heel and sole.

* White line is visible when a separation occurs along the white line of the foot.

* Horizontal wall cracks are evident when a hemorrhage is visible and when there is a horizontal crack in the claw wall.

* Vertical wall cracks occur when a vertical crack is evident on the claw.

Many of these foot lesions can be caused by a nutritional deficiency or imbalance and can help be prevented by properly feeding the correct amounts of the trace minerals sows need most, including copper, zinc and manganese. Providing these minerals at the right levels helps optimize lifetime herd reproductive performance.

Choline influences milk composition

Choline is an essential nutrient that is used by the body in a number of ways. However, nearly 90% of adults do not get the recommended amount in their diets. This is especially significant during pregnancy or lactation, because choline has been shown to play a role in early brain development.

Researchers at the University of Illinois who study the effects of nutrition on brain development using the piglet as a model have conducted a series of studies related to choline deficiency in sows during pregnancy. One such study found that choline deficiency during pregnancy delays brain development in pigs.

In a more recent study published in The Journal of Nutrition, the researchers looked at the effect of choline deficiency during pregnancy on the nutrient composition of sow's milk up to 19 days after birth. Surprisingly, they found that when mothers did not have enough dietary choline during pregnancy, alterations in choline metabolites, fatty acids and amino acids were occurring by the end of lactation.

If milk composition is altered due to choline deficiency during pregnancy, this could have implications for the quality of nutrition the offspring receive.

Ryan Dilger, a University of Illinois animal nutritionist and a co-author of the paper, said the study provides new information about milk composition.

“We did a lot of analyses not typically done on sow milk. The findings are pertinent to both human clinicians and animal scientists,” Dilger explained.

Austin Mudd, a doctoral student and lead author of the study, said another surprise from the study was seeing striking similarities in the overall choline metabolite composition in sow's milk and human milk.

“When we look at the nutrient profiles, those compositions are very close to what we would see in humans, which is different from what we would see in rodent and bovine milk. This helps in establishing the pig as an excellent model for studying choline deficiency, especially in terms of lactation, because there are similar proportions of choline metabolites that likely have similar physiological importance,” Mudd said.

During the study, pregnant sows were fed a choline-sufficient or choline-deficient diet. Milk was then collected after sows gave birth at day 0 (colostrum), days 7-9 (mature milk) and days 17-19 (preweaning). The milk was analyzed for concentrations of choline metabolites, fatty acids and amino acids.

The researchers analyzed seven choline metabolites and observed that free choline and betaine — from the oxidized product of choline — was lowered by the end of lactation at 18 days.

In addition to changes in the choline metabolite profiles, the researchers also saw changes in milk fatty acids and milk amino acids by the end of lactation. Both had increased by day 19.

“Fatty acids showed the same pattern that if the sow was provided adequate choline throughout gestation and lactation, between days 0 and 7, fatty acids increased and then plateaued by day 19, versus in those that were deficient, we observed a linear increase,” Dilger explained. “If we had followed these sows beyond 19 days of lactation, we could learn just how long perinatal choline deficiency may influence fatty acid composition of the milk.”

In a previous study, Mudd and Dilger looked at brain development in piglets when the mother had a sufficient or deficient choline supply. After birth, piglets were put on either a choline-sufficient or choline-deficient milk replacer. The only dietary factor altered was choline. They found that whether the mother had adequate choline during pregnancy mattered more for piglet brain development than which diet the piglet was put on after birth. Also, they found that a limited supply of choline during pregnancy profoundly affects brain maturation.

“That paper speaks to the developmental role of choline in brain growth and overall function. In that study, we learned that differences in perinatal choline intake influence structural development of the brain, including maturation of white matter in brain regions that develop relatively late in the postnatal period. Studying the effects of diet on neurodevelopment by focusing on brain regions experiencing significant growth and development postnatally is a major reason we use the pig in our laboratory,” Dilger said.

In two other recent studies related to nutrition and brain development, the researchers explored brain development among piglets that were artificially reared versus sow reared, and they examined the concentrations of oligosaccharides — a bioactive compound known to influence neonatal development — present in sow milk during lactation.

“These two pieces of work on choline deficiency provide pivotal evidence to justify the inclusion of more choline in prenatal supplements and diets of lactating mothers,” Dilger said.

“Perinatal Dietary Choline Deficiency in Sows Influences Concentrations of Choline Metabolites, Fatty Acids & Amino Acids in Milk Throughout Lactation,” was published in The Journal of Nutrition. The co-authors are Mudd, Lindsey S. Alexander, Stacey K. Johnson, Caitlyn M. Getty, Olga V. Malysheva, Marie A. Caudill and Dilger. The study is available online at http://jn.nutrition.org/content/early/2016/10/12/jn.116.238832.full.pdf+html?sid=6be83195-8c78-4c2d-820c-be298b5c4e04.

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