To improve neonatal piglet survival, Agricultural Research Service physiologists Jeffrey Vallet, Jeremy Miles, and Lea Rempel at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) in Clay Center, Nebraska, have developed a measuring technique referred to as the “immunocrit” that can determine whether neonatal piglets have received adequate colostrum from the sow.
The immunocrit, which measures newborn piglet serum immunoglobulin, is simple, inexpensive, rapid, and accurate. It is similar to the hematocrit, used for years by doctors to measure the volume of blood cells and determine whether a patient is anemic, Vallet says.
Blood samples are taken from piglets on day one after birth, mixed with ammonia sulfate to precipitate immunoglobulin, put into a microcapillary tube, and spun so the precipitated immunoglobulin settles to the bottom. The volume of the precipitated immunoglobulin is then measured and divided by the total volume in the tube.
Scientists have demonstrated that immunocrit measurements are predictive of piglets’ mortality and nursing ability and that the average immunocrit of piglets in a litter reflects the sow’s colostrum production capability. Because the test is so rapid, it is possible to identify compromised piglets and take steps to rescue them, Vallet says.Help for the Smallest
The immunocrit is good at identifying piglets within a litter that haven’t eaten at all or haven’t had the opportunity to nurse, Miles says.
Tuesday October 2, 2012/ ARS-USDA/ United States.