We hypothesized that creatine supplementation would reduce birth intervals, stillbirth rate, and preweaning mortality in pigs because of its reported improvement of athletic performance in humans.
In Exp. 1, gilts (n = 42) and first parity sows (n = 75) were mated at estrus. Beginning on d 110 of gestation, dams received either no treatment or 20 g creatine daily until farrowing. At farrowing in November 2008, pigs were monitored by video camera to determine individual piglet birth intervals. On d 1, piglets were weighed, euthanized, and the cerebellum, brain stem, and spinal cord were collected from the largest and smallest piglets in each litter to measure myelin basic proteins, myelin cholesterol, glucocerebrosides, phosphatidylethanolamine, phosphatidylcholine, and sphingomyelin. Preweaning mortality of the remaining piglets was recorded, including whether a piglet had been overlayed by the dam. A second experiment was performed using gilts (n = 90), farrowing in July 2010, to test differential effects of creatine supplementation during hot, humid weather when dams typically have more difficulty farrowing. Once again, gilts were provided either no supplementation or 20 g creatine daily from d 110 to the day of farrowing. Gilts were video recorded during farrowing, piglets were weighed on d 1, and preweaning mortality (including overlays) was recorded. In Exp. 1, creatine supplementation had no effect on birth intervals or stillbirth rate. Creatine supplementation improved the amount of myelin lipids in brain regions of piglets, particularly the brain stem. Creatine supplementation also reduced overlays of low birth weight piglets from gilts but not second parity sows. Data from Exp. 2 were combined with gilt data from Exp. 1 to examine the effect of creatine, season, and their interaction. There were no effects of treatment or season on birth intervals, stillbirth rates, or overall preweaning mortality. Creatine treatment reduced the incidence of overlays in low birth weight piglets in the combined data set.
These results suggest that creatine supplementation improved myelination and may reduce the incidence of low birth weight piglets being crushed by the dam.
J. L. Vallet, J. R. Miles and L. A. Rempel; Effect of Creatine Supplementation during the Last Week of Gestation on Birth Intervals, Stillbirth, and Preweaning Mortality in Pigs; J ANIM SCI May 2013 vol. 91 no. 5 2122-2132.