Supplementing Vitamin D in Young Pigs
By Lori Stevermer, Hubbard Feeds
Larger litter sizes and increased indoor production creates an increased awareness of suboptimal vitamin D status in young pigs. While rickets is a common ailment associated with vitamin D deficiency, more producers and veterinarians are discovering suboptimal vitamin D levels are also causing peri-weaning failure to thrive syndrome (PFTS).
Pigs are born with a small reserve of vitamin D, a fat soluble vitamin needed for bone growth and development and proper immune function. Supplementing sows with extra vitamin D will not increase the level in newborn pigs.
Nursing pigs receive only a small amount of vitamin D from the sow’s colostrum and almost none from sow’s milk. In addition, today’s genetics and later weaning age produce a larger number of heavier pigs, so the limited supply of vitamin D in the sow’s colostrum is spread out over more pigs. The nursing pigs use this vitamin D before weaning, often creating a deficiency situation. Pigs can use sunlight to produce vitamin D, but moving them indoors has also contributed to the low levels measured in the blood of weaned pigs.
What might producers expect to see if they have pigs experiencing suboptimal levels of vitamin D?
“I had customers that were experiencing poor nursery performance that was not being corrected with ventilation, feed or medication changes,” says Dr. Stewart Galloway. “In one case, the pigs looked great at weaning, and then declined through the nursery phase.
The farm veterinarian had ruled out several possibilities and was ready to try vitamin D supplementation.”
Oral supplementation appears to be the best approach to provide young pigs with vitamin D efficiently and cost effectively. Vitamin D is classified as a nutrient and not a pharmaceutical, which means producers don’t have to register the product with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This saves pork producers time and expenses.
Hubbard Feeds recently introduced Liqui-D, a new liquid form of vitamin D designed to be mixed with water and administered based on anticipated water consumption levels.
While dealing with suboptimal vitamin D levels can be challenging, treatment has shown favorable results. “Some pork producers that have supplemented vitamin D noticed more activity in the pigs and better intake and growth,” says Dr. Galloway. “They’ve also experienced less individual pig treatments and fewer cull pigs, all of which is very encouraging.”