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Colostrum intake: Influence on piglet performance and factors of variation.

Quesnel, H., Farmer, C., and Devillers, N. (2012). "Colostrum intake: Influence on piglet performance and factors of variation.", Livestock Science, 146(2-3), pp. 105-114. doi : 10.1016/j.livsci.2012.03.010  Access to full text


Failure of piglets to achieve an adequate intake of colostrum is the underlying cause for the majority of piglet deaths occurring within the first days of post-natal life. From the most recent findings, it can be estimated that 200g of colostrum per piglet during the first 24h after birth is the minimum consumption to significantly reduce the risk of mortality before weaning, provide passive immunity and allow a slight weight gain. A consumption of 250g could be recommended to achieve good health and pre- and post-weaning growth. On this basis, at least one-third of sows do not produce enough colostrum to fulfil the needs of their litter. Various ways to increase colostrum intake by piglets must be considered, such as increasing the ability of piglets to suckle, reducing within-litter variation in birth weight, and increasing the quantity of colostrum that sows produce. Research on sow nutrition during gestation has led to promising results, especially on piglet vitality at birth and on the acquisition of passive immunity. Approaches focusing on nutrition or genetic selection are also expected to increase litter uniformity at birth. Finally, it is evident that ways to increase sow colostrum production need to receive further attention. One area which has been neglected but which warrants more research is the potential impact of mammary development on colostrum yield. Focus in the future should be given on the impacts of sow hormonal status and nutrition during the prepuberal period and during the last days of pregnancy on the production of colostrum by sows.

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