A robust and resilient weaned pig will thrive in the post-weaning environment. Ensuring pigs have an optimal haemoglobin level at weaning is one of the best ways to raise a healthy, resilient pig that is ready to take on the challenges ahead.
It is well documented that iron deficiency anaemia slows post-weaning growth and makes pigs more susceptible to post-weaning stressors. Differences of up to 0.82 kg of growth in the three weeks post-weaning have been reported between piglets with optimal haemoglobin levels (more than 110 g/litre) and those with deficient haemoglobin (below 90 g/litre) at weaning. To overcome that, traditionally one dose of iron is given to newborn piglets. In the context of modern genetics and efficient production, sometimes pigs quickly outgrow a single dose.
Blood haemoglobin levels can be easily measured in piglets with minimal investment of time and cost using a handheld device called a HemoCue. Using that method, testing of 2,011 pigs from 80 farms in the US showed that when given one 200 mg dose of injectable iron, 71% of pigs were subclinically or clinically deficient in blood haemoglobin at the time of weaning.
Similarly, it is possible to collect that type of data on individual farms, as the decision about the optimal dose of injectable iron for pigs should be based on herd-specific data. If testing shows that subclinical or deficient haemoglobin levels are present in the herd, a second 200 mg dose of iron dextran (Uniferon, Pharmacosmos) given 5 to 7 days after the first has been proven to boost haemoglobin and give pigs the iron they need.
In a study presented at the International Pig Veterinary Society Congress in Chongqing, China, it was shown that a second 200 mg of injectable iron resulted in 1.44 kg more live weight near the end of finishing compared to when a single 200 mg dose was given. Those results are shared in Table 1.
One year later, the economic consequences were also shared at the European Symposium for Porcine Health Management in 2019, held in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Calculations show that a second 200 mg dose of injectable iron can boost bottom lines by up to € 2.08 per pig marketed.
Author: Chris Olsen, DVM MS, international technical service manager, Pharmacosmos