How vitamin C and iron supplementation benefit gestating sows

18-03 | |
Photo: Bart Nijs
Photo: Bart Nijs

A team of Spanish researchers evaluated the effect of supplementing vitamin C and vitamin C plus ferrous sulphate monohydrate (iron) during the last third of gestation on the sows’ blood hemoglobin concentration and individual birth weight of piglets.

The increase in litter size and farrowing period of hyper-prolific sows increases the iron requirement for gestating sows. However, the absorption of iron in sows is greatly hindered by its gut absorption. Although standard diets for pregnant sows already contain iron, the addition of a vitamin C supplement may enhance its absorption and benefit gestating sows.

Data collection

The research team selected a total of 90 gestating sows from the same weekly farrowing batch. They excluded sows with dystocic parturition and those that had previously experienced the birth of more than 4 stillborn piglets. Then, they randomly assigned sows to 3 different groups: control, the group that received vitamin C supplements and the group that received vitamin C plus iron supplements. The researchers determined individual hemoglobin concentration in sows using individual blood samples. In addition, they recorded the total number of piglets born and their individual birth weights from control, vitamin C supplemented and vitamin C plus iron supplemented groups.

Impact of vitamin C and iron on hemoglobin concentration

There was a significant decrease in hemoglobin concentration in the control group due to either iron deficiency or impaired iron absorption caused by a lack of vitamin C. On the other hand, both vitamin C supplemented group and vitamin C plus iron supplemented group exhibited a significant increase in hemoglobin concentration; however, there was no significant advantage of supplementing vitamin C and iron over vitamin C in terms of hemoglobin concentration.

Impact of vitamin C and iron on piglets’ birth weight

The results showed that the impact of group on the birth weight of piglets varied depending on the mother’s parity. In the case of parity 1-2, both the vitamin C and vitamin C plus iron supplemented groups exhibited higher birth weights in piglets. On the other hand, in parity 4-5, the vitamin C supplemented group demonstrated a higher birth weight in piglets compared to the vitamin C plus iron supplemented group.


The authors concluded that supplementing both vitamin C and vitamin C plus iron during the third trimester is beneficial for gestating sows in terms of hemoglobin concentration and increase in individual birth weights of piglets. In addition, supplementation is recommended more for females in their first and second reproductive cycles rather than mature females.

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Samaneh Azarpajouh Author, veterinarian
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