Results of an innovative large-scale study on sow colostrum and milk immune quality were presented at the latest ‘Journées de la Recherche Porcine’ (swine research days- JRP) in Paris, a major event for the pig industry to stay abreast of swine research(1).
One of the main conclusions of the study was that sows diet supplementation with Saccharomyces cerevisiae boulardii CNCM I-1079 (Levucell SB), effectively improved colostrum immune status: the level of IgG and IgA are improved by 21 and 18% on average, respectively. In milk, the IgA level was also significantly enhanced by 18%. A second study presented at the same congress (2) provided further insight into piglets’ ability to quickly reach the udder, based on their vitality at birth, and its link with subsequent performance.
The authors of the study concluded that: “Colostrum antibodies levels were significantly enhanced by Levucell SB supplementation in the sow diet”, adding that: “If we can demonstrate that the piglets immune status were consequently improved, in particular at weaning, this could represent a potential alternative to antibiotic usage in piglet, a practice increasingly questioned due to the emergence of antibiotic resistance and associated diarrhoeas outburst.”
Unlike in humans, there is no transfer of maternal immunoglobulins (Ig) to the foetus during gestation: newborn piglets are totally deprived of antibodies. In fact, their early immunity depends on immunoglobulin G (IgG) intake through colostrum and then milk, a process known as passive transfer of immunity. Consequently, piglet immunity in the first days of life depends on their colostrum intake and colostrum IgG content (Le Dividich et al., 2005), which are highly variable from farm to farm and even from sow to sow. Moreover, it is known that passive immunity level reached during the colostral phase favours the development of active immunity and the level of immune protection at weaning (Rooke et al., 2003).
Thus, enhancing the colostrum and milk IgG content through sow diet design appears as a good strategy to optimise piglet’s protection and health pre and post-weaning. Moreover, the observed effects of Levucell SB upon colostrum and milk antibodies levels are in-line with the well-described benefits of this probiotic in maternity upon piglets’ health (reduced mortality in maternity, reduced neonatal diarrhoea…) and performance up to weaning (improved ADWG and litter weight…)
What’s more, this large-scale experimental study enabled to update the literature on sow colostrum, a poorly studied, although essential aspect of pig production. The study presented at the JRP was conducted on 66 sows in total in a French pig farm, and provided a wealth of data on colostrum immune status (evolution of IgG, IgM and IgA contents post-farrowing), while the references available on the subject were scarce, with studies performed on a much more limited number of sows (Salmon-Le Gagneur 1962; Klobasa et al., 1987; Le Dividich 2001).
The second significant and innovative study from Lallemand team that was presented at the JRP Congress (2), proposed an update of our piglet vitality scale (3), incorporating the time to reach the udder after farrowing (INRA method). This study showed the relevance of this updated assessment method, which appears easy to implement in commercial pig farms when studying the peri-partum phase. It also confirmed the link between vitality at birth and subsequent piglet zootechnical performance (ADWG). These conclusions concur with the precedent study, emphasizing the importance of colostrum intake on piglet subsequent performance.
(1)Influence of feeding Saccharomyces cerevisiae boulardii on immunoglobulins of sow’s colostrum and milk, by David Guillou, Audrey Sacy, Dominique Marchand, Yannig Le Treut, and Jean Le Dividich. 44th Journées de la Recherche Porcine, 7-8th February 2012, Paris.
(2)Relationship between piglet vitality at birth and time to reach the udder: consequence on subsequent performances, by Yannig Le Treut, Audrey Sacy, Eric Chevaux, David Guillou. 44th Journées de la Recherche Porcine, 7-8th February 2012, Paris.
(3)Piglets signs of immaturity at birth Audrey Sacy, Yannig Le Treut, Philippe Schmidely, Eric Chevaux, 42e Journées de la Recherche Porcine, 2 -3 February 2010, Paris.