Colostrum – Powering Our Piglets
With our hyper prolific sows producing increased numbers of born alive and greater numbers of light piglets, the role of colostrum in maximising lifetime performance has never been more important.
Colostrum, the first milk produced by mammary glands in the late stages of pregnancy and in the first 24 hours after parturition is crucial to the survival of piglets for a number of reasons:
- It is rich in three important immunoglobulins (IgG, IgA and IgM), supplying the piglets with passive immunity, essential in providing protection to the piglets.
- It reduces mortality, and
- Improves lifetime performance.
Importance of immunoglobulins passed via colostrum
Bland et. al., 2003 showed that with passive immunity to the piglet being prevented via the placenta, piglets are born devoid of any protection. Therefore, maximising the transfer of immunoglobulins within colostrum is key to kickstart the survival of piglets and lifetime growth potential. These immunoglobulins all have a specific job:
- IgG represents 80-85% of total immunoglobulins in serum and colostrum and is the most important antibody in the secondary response. Transfer of IgG only takes place via colostrum absorbed over the gastrointestinal tract during the first 24 hours postpartum.
- IgM is the first antibody produced after an immune response and is essential for the primary response under exposure to challenge.
- IgA is the pig’s most important immunoglobulin in regard to mucosa immunity and lactation. It does this by preventing the attachment of antigens in gut walls, and neutralizing the activity of some viruses, both inside and outside epithelium cells.
Colostrum effect on mortality and lifetime performance
Research by Declerck et. al., 2016 investigated the effect of piglet birth weight and colostrum intake on lifetime growth performance. This work showed that irrespective of birthweight, if a piglet consumes no colostrum, it has <50% chance of surviving until weaning. Conversely, regardless of birthweight, if piglets receive 350g colostrum their survivability is dramatically increased with >90% chance of being weaned.
Piglets with low birthweights, <1kg, who received low levels of colostrum had 30% chance of surviving to weaning. However, if these low birth weight piglets received 350g of...
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