All pig producers know that the first few hours of a piglet's life are critical to its survival. In addition to a warm, clean housing environment, a readily available supply of nutrients is the key. An effective nutritional strategy can give the weakest piglets thebeststart in life, setting the stage for future growth and development.
Normally piglets receive the initial nutrient boost they need from colostrum. However, some piglets are too weak to get to the udder to feed, leaving them susceptible to dehydration and overheating. These piglets are also deprived from the essential immune stimulating nutrients present in colostrum.
The power of protein
A sow’s milk is the ideal source of both micro- and macronutrients for newborn piglets. During the suckling period, piglets gain nutrients from colostrum, a form of nutrient-rich milk produced by the sow in the first 24-48 hours after farrowing. Colostrum contains immunologlobins, which are used by the immune system to identify and neutralise foreign objects such as bacteria and viruses. These important antibodies can only pass through the gut wall during the first 24-48 hours of the piglet’s life. Without adequate amounts of immunoglobulins, the piglet is exposed to a number of harmful pathogens such as clostridia and transmissible gastroenteritis (TGE), both of which are associated with high mortality levels.
Underdeveloped piglets are often too weak to go to the udder, meaning that they are not able to obtain the life-giving substances provided by colostrum. Supplementation is therefore recommended to boost the weakest piglets’ immunity at this crucial time.
Pasteurised egg proteins, for example, can deliver essential IgY, IgM & IgA immunoglobulins. When produced and processed in a specific way, these antibodies bind to specific orally introduced antigens in the intestinal tract, forming stable antigen-antibody complexes and protecting the host from common pathogens.
Vitamin E for enhanced immunityMicronutrients such as vitamins A, D3 and E are also essential for a strong immune system, ensuring that the animal’s defences can react quickly and efficiently to the threat of disease. Vitamin E in particular will be examined here. Not much vitamin E is passed from sow to piglet in the womb. The newly born animal must therefore rely on passive immunity derived from colostrum, or in the piglets that are initially too weak to get to the udder to feed, other nutritional sources.
Adequate levels of vitamin E play a key role as an antioxidant and in triggering important immune reactions necessary to fight disease. As stores of this nutrient are depleted in the fight against any challenge to the immune system, it is important that the animal obtains sufficient vitamin E to protect against disease.
Protecting the gut
Microflora in the gut have an important role to play in the early development of the gut’s mucosal immune system. The use of probiotics can help foster colonies of these ‘good’ bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, strengthening a piglet’s resistance to disease by outnumbering and stunting the development of harmful bacteria.
For weak piglets that are not able to get to the udder to feed, vitamin E, immunoglobulins as well as other micro- and macronutrients work synergistically to enhance immunity and increase vitality, helping to get them back on their feet.
Friendly probiotic bacteria
Available as a highly palatable gel for optimal acceptance by weak piglets, Porforte (Trouw Nutrition) combines vitamins A, D3, E and B12, as well as ‘friendly’ probiotic bacteria to promote good digestive health. In addition, the product’s high energy content boosts the piglet’s vitality, better enabling it to get to the udder and feed. The product also contains Protimax, a unique source of antibodies. Produced and processed by a patented technological process, Protimax contains IgY, IgM and IgA immunoglobulins, like colostrum does. Fed to the animal straight after birth, Porforte lowers mortality in three ways: by boosting the immune system, promoting gut health and improving piglet energy levels. The product is GMP+ certified, which gives independent assurance of feed safety throughout the feed chain. It is also free of antibiotics and other medication.