SDP effective in swine diets for various stages

SDP effective in swine diets for various stages

Appropriate and strategic use of SDP can help the swine producer minimize low-weight pigs at birth and weaning and help pigs get off to a good start on the way to market.

*J.D. Crenshaw, J. Polo and J.M. Campbell are with APC Inc.

SPRAY-dried plasma (SDP) is widely used as a protein source in nursery pig diets because the enhanced nutrition it provides has well-documented beneficial effects on postweaning growth, feed intake, morbidity indices and survival (Coffey and Cromwell, 2001; Van Dijk et al., 2001; Torrallardona, 2010).

SDP, when included in diets or used as a nutritional supplement in drinking water, provides nutrition that has beneficial biological effects on the pig's ability to cope with postweaning stress (Peace et al., 2011) and even subsequent stress later in production (Moeser et al., 2013).

In addition, the nutrition provided by diets supplemented with SDP has been reported to support sow and litter productivity (Campbell et al., 2006; Crenshaw et al., 2007; Crenshaw et al., 2008; Crenshaw et al., 2010; Van Iersel et al., 2011).

Furthermore, research demonstrates that diets containing SDP not only support and maintain the intestinal system (Moreto and Perez-Bosque, 2009; Perez-Bosque et al., 2010) but also the respiratory (Maijo et al., 2011; Maijo et al., 2012) and reproductive (Song et al., 2012b) systems as well.

The purpose of this article is to discuss the effects of diets containing SDP during various stages of swine production and describe how this nutrition may be used in support of pig performance from conception to market.


Sow applications

Managing the environment, health and nutrition of the swine farm is important to help sows and their pigs achieve their genetic potential.

The development and propagation of hyper-prolific sows has increased the number of pigs born by 0.2-0.3 pigs per litter per year (Bjerre et al., 2010; Marineau and Badouard, 2009), but the range in birth weight may exceed 1 kg among the lightest and heaviest pigs in a litter (Foxcroft et al., 2007). Prenatal restriction of uterine space can limit fetal and postnatal growth in large litters. Other factors such as environmental or pathogenic stress can also affect fetal survival, fetal growth, postnatal growth and survival to market weight.

Certain strains of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) virus are well known to have a detrimental effect on pregnancy rate, fetal survival and the weight and vitality of pigs at birth.

Statistical process control analyses were used to detect system changes in sow herd productivity records at a 5,500-sow farm with PRRS virus activity before and after inclusion of SDP in both gestation and lactation feeds (Campbell et al., 2006). After inclusion of SDP in sow feed, significant system improvements were detected for the farrowing rate (86% versus 81%) and pigs weaned per sow served (7.84 versus 7.44), even though periods of PRRS activity continued in the herd.

Even in a high-health sow herd without PRRS virus, including SDP in gestating sow feed can support litter performance (Crenshaw et al., 2010). Primiparous sows provided a gestation diet containing SDP from day 14 of pregnancy to farrowing had heavier pigs at birth and fewer pigs weighing less than 1 kg at birth. Both primiparous and multiparous sows had pigs that were heavier at 18 days of age compared to primiparous sows provided a diet without SDP.

Similar results were observed in a pregnant mouse model of transport stress in which mice provided nutrition from diets containing SDP had increased pregnancy rates, along with a larger litter size and heavier average fetal weight near the end of pregnancy, compared to mice provided a diet without SDP (Song et al., 2012a; Song et al., 2012c).

Heat stress reduces the feed intake of lactating sows and pig weight at weaning (Spencer et al., 2003; Safranski et al., 2010). Several studies reported that the nutrition provided by SDP in lactation diets supported sow and litter performance, particularly if fed during the summer months (Crenshaw et al., 2007; Crenshaw et al., 2008; Van Iersel et al., 2011).

In these studies, SDP in lactation diets contributed to improved pig survival to weaning, heavier litters at weaning, greater feed intake by young sows, a reduced wean-to-estrus interval of primiparous sows and an increased farrowing rate of sows to the next lactation compared to a lactation diet without SDP. The average weight of pigs at weaning from sows provided SDP during lactation was increased 320 g per pig compared to pigs from sows provided diets without SDP (Crenshaw et al., 2007; Crenshaw et al., 2008).

Collectively, these studies demonstrate that inclusion of SDP in diets supports sow productivity indices, including pig survival and pig weight gain to weaning, particularly during periods of stress associated with summer heat or PRRS virus activity.


Postweaning to market

Weaning is one of the most stressful periods in a pig's life and can cause reduced feed intake and growth and increased morbidity and mortality, particularly during the initial two to four weeks after weaning or until the pig's immune system has been more fully developed.

Weaning is a stress regardless of weaning age due to abrupt separation from the sow and is often accompanied by other stressors related to changes in the physical and social environment, mingling with pigs from different litters, dietary transitions and exposure to different pathogens or antigens.

The visible adverse effects of weaning stress are reduced feed intake and growth, along with an increased incidence of diarrhea and mortality, but internally, weaning stress causes intestinal inflammation and damage to the mucosal barrier structure and function (Spreeuwenberg et al., 2001; Boundry et al., 2004; Pie et al., 2004; Smith et al., 2010). Therefore, it is crucial that the pig overcomes weaning stress rapidly to survive and be productive through its remaining life.

Along with good husbandry and health management, dietary interventions can be a viable and practical way to help pigs adapt and transition through the complexities associated with weaning stress. Weanling pigs provided diets containing SDP during the initial two weeks postweaning consistently average more than a 20% increase in average daily gain and average daily feed intake compared to pigs provided nutrition from diets containing various other proteins derived from soybeans, milk, fish or other animal and plant protein products (Coffey and Cromwell, 2001; Van Dijk et al., 2001; Torrallardona, 2010).

Past studies have also noted improved productivity and survival of nursery and grow/finish swine fed SDP in diets or drinking water during an experimental challenge with pathogenic Escherichia coli (Bosi et al., 2001; Bosi et al., 2004; Campbell et al. 2001; Campbell et al., 2003; Torrallardona et al., 2003) or rotavirus (Corl et al., 2007) or while having porcine circovirus-associated disease, a multi-systemic disease affecting both the respiratory and digestive systems (Messier et al., 2007; Mores et al., 2007).

A study involving nursery pigs experimentally challenged with PRRS indicated that if pigs were given diets supplemented with SDP, fewer of the pigs were viremic by day 28 post-infection, suggesting a more rapid clearance rate of the virus (Diaz et al., 2010).

Another study involving an experimental challenge of nursery pigs with swine influenza virus revealed that pigs can develop lung lesions and have reduced growth rate for up to seven days post-infection and that the nutrition provided by SDP in the feed and/or drinking water can partially alleviate the development of lung lesions and also depressed growth rate post-challenge compared to pigs not provided SDP in feed and/or drinking water (Campbell et al., 2011).

Recently, SDP in diets for weaned pigs was shown to have beneficial effects on intestinal barrier function, inflammation and diarrhea (Peace et al., 2011). The percentage of SDP (5%) used in the feed, as well as the feeding duration of diets containing SDP after weaning (14 days), can provide nutrition that favorably affects pigs' ability to withstand subsequent stresses such as transport and salmonella challenge during movement from the nursery to the finisher (Moeser et al., 2013).

In addition, various mycotoxins in feed grains are known to reduce performance of pigs and cause damage to the intestines. Two recent studies have been done to determine if the nutrition provided by diets supplemented with SDP could reduce the negative effects of mycotoxins (Eastwood et al., 2013; Weaver et al., 2013). Weaned pigs on diets containing 8% SDP and wheat contaminated with 3.9 parts per million of deoxynivalenol (DON) had the same growth rate as pigs fed diets without DON and had improved growth compared to pigs fed diets without SDP but containing wheat contaminated with 3.9 ppm DON (Eastwood et al., 2013).

In the other study (Weaver et al., 2013), pigs were fed diets containing 0% or 6% SDP but without mycotoxin-contaminated corn for 12 days after weaning. For the next three weeks, pigs that had previously been fed diets containing 6% SDP were fed diets that contained corn naturally contaminated with 180 parts per billion of aflatoxin and 9 ppm of fumonisin and either 0%, 3% or 6% SDP, while pigs that had previously been fed the diet with no SDP were subsequently fed diets without SDP and with or without mycotoxin-contaminated corn.

Pigs fed mycotoxin-contaminated corn without SDP supplemented in the diet during either of the two feeding periods had reduced growth rate compared to pigs that had never been fed diets with mycotoxin-contaminated corn. However, if pigs had been fed the diet containing the enhanced nutrition provided by SDP during the initial period — which resulted in a greater growth rate compared to pigs fed the diet with 0% SDP during the initial period — then final bodyweight and pig growth rate were not significantly affected, regardless of SDP supplementation level when mycotoxin-contaminated corn diets were fed during the second period of the study.

These results demonstrate the important role of SDP as a protein source in feed to support pig performance through postweaning stress and to help prepare pigs to be more resilient under subsequent stress later in production.


Value of SDP

Most research indicates that a lighter birth weight of pigs is associated with reduced survival and slower growth rates to weaning and to the end of the nursery period, which results in more days to market weight or reduced carcass weight (Fix et al., 2010; Jones et al., 2011; Opschoor et al., 2012; Paredes et al., 2012; Powell and Aberle, 1980; Rehfeld et al., 2008; Smith et al., 2007).

A study involving 28 breeding farms with data from at least 300 litters per farm showed a clear relationship between birth weight and pig survival (Opschoor et al., 2012). Only 33% of pigs with a birth weight of 700 g survived, whereas more than 95% of pigs with a birth weight of 2 kg survived.

The value of 1% pig mortality was estimated to be 7.07 euros ($9.19) per sow present on the farm, based on 2010 costs and values in the Netherlands. Pigs with a birth weight of 2 kg took 10 fewer days to obtain a slaughter weight than pigs with a birth weight of 1 kg. Weaning weight and weight at the end of the nursery period were 1.7 kg and 2.3 kg more, respectively, for pigs with a birth weight of 2 kg versus 1 kg.

According to the authors, this difference in development was equivalent to an average daily gain difference of 85 g per day from 25 kg of bodyweight to slaughter. The value of an additional gram of growth per day from the end of the nursery period to market weight was calculated to be 0.028 euros (3.6 cents).

A recent analysis of factors to predict pig bodyweight at the end of the nursery phase was reported using information on 77,868 individual pigs born between 2005 and 2010 at three different research centers in the Netherlands and France (Paredes et al., 2012). A preliminary analysis revealed that more than 30% of the variation in weight at slaughter at 110 kg of bodyweight was explained by differences in bodyweight at the end of the nursery period.

Further analysis revealed that season of birth, individual pig birth weight, weaning weight and bodyweight at six weeks of age explained 60-70% of the variation in bodyweight at the end of the nursery period (63-64 days of age), which ranged from 22.5 kg to 24.2 kg of bodyweight. In particular, individual pigs with a bodyweight of -2.5 times the standard deviation from the mean of the total population had no potential to achieve adequate performance in postnatal life under practical farm conditions.

The increase in litter size over the past decade has contributed to improved sow productivity but also has resulted in more variation in the pigs' birth weight, which can be problematic for managing pig flow from birth to market. Supplementation of SDP in sow feed can result in increased pig survival and pig weight at weaning and can return value back to the sow herd as well as increase the starting weight and value of the weaned pig.

The well-documented beneficial effects of supplementing SDP in starter diets — along with recent information that the feeding duration and dietary level of SDP in starter diets provides nutrition to help the pig transition to the detrimental effects of weaning stress and make them more resilient against subsequent stress — clearly demonstrate the importance of providing the appropriate nutrition contributed by SDP.

Sow and nursery feed represent only 20-25% of the total feed to produce a market pig at 122 kg (270 lb.) of bodyweight. Growth rate and feed efficiency during the growing and finishing phases can be affected by the prior growth rate of pigs from birth to the end of the nursery period. Since grow/finish feed represents 75-80% of the total feed to produce a market pig, it is imperative for the producer to minimize low-weight pigs at birth and weaning and to maximize the growth rate of pigs to the end of the nursery period.

Appropriate and strategic use of SDP can help the swine producer minimize low-weight pigs at birth and weaning and help pigs get off to a good start on the way to market. Recommendations for the use of SDP in swine diets at various periods of production are listed in the Table.


Recommendations for use of SDP in swine diets

Plasma level in

Production period

complete feed, %

Feeding duration

Pig creep feed while in maternity


Day 7 of age to weaning

First pig feed after weaning


0-14 days after weaning

Second pig feed after weaning*


15-28 days after weaning

Third pig feed after weaning**


28 days after weaning to end of nursery

Transition from nursery to grower**


End of nursery to 14 days in grower

Lactating sows


Provide ad libitum feed during lactation

Gestating sows


Provide in feed during entire gestation

Boars in isolation


Provide in feed during entire time boars are in isolation or quarantine

*Recommended for maintaining maximum effect of nutrition provided by plasma.

**Recommended for pigs experiencing stress during later time in nursery or during transition from nursery to grow/finish facility.



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Van Iersel, H., C. Rodriguez, J. Polo, J.M. Campbell, J.D. Crenshaw and L. Rotelli. 2011. Effect of spray-dried plasma in lactation feed on pig survival and litter weight at a commercial farm in Italy. Proc. Allen D. Leman Swine Conference, Recent Research Reports, Univ. of Minn., St. Paul, Minn. Vol. 38, p. 281.

Weaver, A.C., J. Campbell, J.D. Crenshaw, J. Polo and S.W. Kim. 2013. Efficacy of plasma protein to mitigate the negative effects on performance of pigs fed mycotoxin contaminated corn. J. Anim. Sci. 91(Suppl. 2):12-13.


Volume:85 Issue:25

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