Vitamin D3 supplementation in suckling and weaned piglets
Project 12-009 - Researchers: Bob Friendship, University of Guelph, Tim Blackwell, OMAFRA, Terri O’Sullivan, OMAFRA
Project start: 2012 Project Completion: 2013
Research Summary – Project 12/009
Researchers: Bob Friendship, University of Guelph, Tim Blackwell, OMAFRA, Terri O’Sullivan, OMAFRA
Student: Paisley Canning, OMAFRA summer student
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that can be absorbed in the diet or produced by the body following exposure of the skin to sunshine. In indoor commercial swine production, pigs are rarely exposed to sufficient direct sunlight in order to produce their own vitamin D3. As piglets are born with very low amounts of vitamin D, sows milk is a poor source for this vitamin, and blood levels of vitamin D in pigs are highly variable, it has been questioned if pigs suffer from vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency has also been associated with immune-mediated diseases in humans and it has been suggested that low levels of serum vitamin D may predispose commercial piglets to suboptimal post-weaning performance and health.
Researchers at the University of Guelph decided to investigate the effect of supplementation on piglet levels of vitamin D and any potential short or long-term benefits. The researchers gave 55 newborn (from one farm) and 1030 newly weaned piglets (from two different farms) an oral vitamin D3 supplement, and compared their test results and production parameters with an equal number of non-supplemented littermates. Piglets given oral vitamin D3 between ages 1-5 days had much higher levels of vitamin D in their blood than non-supplemented piglets when measured 23 days later. Similarly, pigs given oral vitamin D3 at weaning had higher blood levels of vitamin D 28 days after supplementation. Despite this increase in vitamin D levels, supplemented pigs did not show improved morbidity, mortality or average daily gain compared to the non-supplemented pigs. These results suggest that supplementing piglets with vitamin D is not associated with improved production, and demonstrates that more research is needed to determine the ideal, health promoting levels of vitamin D in the blood stream.
Bob Friendship, University of Guelph
Tim Blackwell, OMAFRA
Terri O’Sullivan, OMAFRA