Iron supplementation regimes for newborn piglets are very standardized with little focus on variations in birth weight, growth rate or weaning age in individual herds. The objective of the current study was to determine if big piglets at weaning are at higher risk of iron deficiency than the smaller ones.
Five Danish herds (with minimum herd size of 1000 sows) administering injectable iron supplementation were randomly selected. Within each herd, 20 litters around weaning were selected randomly and from each litter, three piglets were selected; the biggest piglet, a random piglet and the smallest piglet. EDTA- and nonstabilized blood was collected from each piglet and serum iron, total iron binding capacity (TIBC) and haemoglobin levels were determined.
A total of 296 piglets were included in the study. The serum iron concentrations were 19.90 (13.50 SD), 25.11 (12.38 SD) and 24.56 (11.58 SD) μmol/L in big, random and small piglets, respectively. TIBC levels in big, random and small pigs were 88.64 (17.32 SD), 82.02 (18.36 SD), and 72.50 (19.42 SD) μmol/L, respectively. The haemoglobin concentrations in big, random and small piglets were 119.64 (15.5 SD), 121.50 (15.11 SD) and 121.50 (13.19 SD) g/L, respectively. Statistically, serum iron was lower in big piglets compared to random (p=0.004) and small piglets (p=0.009). TIBC was higher in big piglets compared to random (p=0.01) and small piglets (p<0.0001) and the level in random piglets was higher compared to small piglets (p=0.0004). No significant differences in haemoglobin levels were observed among the three types of piglets (p=0.63).
The decrease in serum iron and increase in TIBC in piglets with increasing size indicates that iron is utilized faster in bigger piglets making them prone to iron deficiency. However, haemoglobin levels were not different among types of piglets, which probably explains that a fall in haemoglobin will occur later than a fall in serum iron and rise in TIBC in case of iron deficiency. The results suggest that serum iron and TIBC values may be used as potential indicator of early iron deficiency in weaning piglets.
Bhattarai S. Busch M.E., Friendship R., Martineau G. P., Nielsen J. P. Early indicators of iron deficiency in piglets at weaning. 6th European Symposium of Porcine Health Management.