Supplementing diets with omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) from fish oil have been shown to improve the development of the brain and immunity of neonatal piglets. However there is little information regarding the effect of omega 3 PUFA on reproductive performance in sows. Increasing omega 3 PUFA prefarrowing and during lactation could improve oocyte quality and embryo survival, and consequently conception rate and litter size. Including fish oil in the lactation diet of sows may therefore improve sow productivity.
The aim of this study was to evaluate the reproductive performance of sows fed fish oil as a source of omega 3 PUFA prefarrowing and during lactation. From d 107.7 ± 0.1 of pregnancy, 328 sows ranging in parity from 0 to 7 (parity 1.95 ± 0.09, mean ± SE) were fed either a diet containing tallow (Control) or an isocaloric diet containing 3 g of fish oil/kg of diet (Omega 3). Diets were formulated to contain the same amount of DE (13.9 MJ/kg), crude fat (54 g/kg), and crude protein (174 g/kg). Sows were fed their treatment diet at 3 kg daily for 8 d prior to farrowing and continued on treatment diets ad libitum until weaning at 18.7 ± 0.1 d of lactation. Following weaning, all sows were fed a gestation diet without fish oil until their subsequent farrowing. There was no effect of feeding omega 3 diets prefarrowing on piglet birth weight, preweaning growth rate, piglet weaning weight, or sow feed intake. However, Omega 3 sows had a larger subsequent litter size (10.7 ± 0.3 vs 9.7 ± 0.3 total born; 10.2 ± 0.3 vs 9.3 ± 0.3 born live; P < 0.05).
In conclusion, this is the first study to demonstrate that feeding sows a diet containing omega 3 PUFA from fish oil fed before farrowing and during lactation increased litter size in the subsequent parity independent of energy intake.
RJ Smits, BG Luxford, M Mitchell and MB Nottle, 2011. Journal of Animal Science, 89: 2731-2738. http://dx.doi.org/ 10.2527/jas.2010-3593