Deoxynivalenol (DON) contamination of feed may result in reduced growth, feed refusal, immunosuppression, and health problems in swine. Piglets can be exposed to DON via placenta before birth and via milk during lactation. The extent of early-life exposure of piglets to DON is, however, not fully known. This study was therefore aimed at investigating DON uptake in sows fed with naturally contaminated diets, DON transfer across placenta during late gestation, and transfer of DON to piglets via colostrum and milk. Forty-four crossbred sows were evaluated from day 93 ± 1 of gestation until weaning of piglets and fed with feed made from naturally DON-contaminated oats at three concentration levels: (1) control (DON < 0.2 mg/kg), (2) DON level 1 (1.4 mg DON/kg), and (3) DON level 2 (1.7 mg DON/kg). The transfer of DON to the piglets was evaluated in 15 sows, with repeated sampling of blood and milk from the sows and blood samples from five piglets of each litter. The piglet/sow plasma DON ratio and milk/plasma (M/P) DON ratio in sows were calculated to estimate the degree of transfer. Piglet/sow plasma ratios were 2.14 at birth, 2.30 within 12–36 h after parturition, 0.08 on day 7, 0.16 on day 21, and 0.20 at weaning. M/P ratios were 0.92, 1.11, 0.94, 1.21, and 0.90, respectively. The results indicate that DON is efficiently transferred across placenta and into milk. However, the low piglet/sow plasma ratios at mid-lactation to weaning indicate that the piglets were most strongly exposed to DON in early life, despite the high M/P ratios and efficient secretion of DON in milk throughout the entire lactation.
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