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A Single Dose of Fat-Based Energy Supplement to Light Birth Weight Pigs Shortly After Birth Does Not Increase Their Survival and Growth

Pig Development Department, Teagasc Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Moorepark, Fermoy, Co. Cork P61 NP77, Ireland
Department of Animal Production, Easter Bush Veterinary Centre, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, The University of Edinburgh, Easter Bush Campus, Midlothian EH25 9RG, UK
Animal Behaviour and Welfare Team, Animal and Veterinary Sciences Research Group, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JG, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2019, 9(5), 227;
Received: 10 April 2019 / Revised: 1 May 2019 / Accepted: 3 May 2019 / Published: 9 May 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Management of Peri-Parturient and Lactating Sows and Piglets)
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Simple Summary

In modern piggeries, due to the increase in litter size (number of piglets born alive), the number of piglets born at a low birth weight (typically under 1.0 kg) is increasing. Those piglets have a lower chance of survival because of their lower body energy reserves, and therefore are of concern for the farmers. Piglets weighing less than 1.1 kg at birth were given an oral dose of fat-based energy (2 mL of coconut oil or 2 mL of a commercial product), 2 mL of water or were only handled but given nothing. This was done to investigate the effects of providing an energy boost at birth on the chances of survival of small piglets. Parameters measured to assess the piglets’ vitality were survival, blood glucose content, rectal temperature, behaviour test of vigour and weight gain. Unfortunately, there was no effect of the energy dose on the parameters measured. Therefore, we conclude that a single dose of energy at birth does not enhance the chances of survival of small piglets. Therefore, using energy product to improve piglet survival at birth may not be the most efficient strategy.


Low birth weight piglets are at high risk of mortality, because of the rapid depletion of their energy reserves after birth. At 3 h postpartum, 405 piglets weighing <1.1 kg were either dosed orally with 2 mL of (1) coconut oil (CO, 74 kJ/2 mL, n = 107 piglets), (2) commercial product (CP, 71 kJ/2 mL, n = 101 piglets), (3) water (W, 0 kJ/2 mL, n = 100 piglets) or (4) were sham-dosed (S, n = 97 piglets). Treatments were applied within litter (97 sows). Before treatment piglets were weighed, scored for vitality and blood glucose concentration (subset: CO = 45 piglets, CP = 38 piglets, W = 49 piglets and S = 44 piglets) and rectal temperature were measured. Rectal temperature was remeasured 1 h post-treatment (4 h postpartum). At 24 h post-treatment (27 h postpartum), vitality, weight and blood glucose were remeasured. Piglets were weighed on D5, D7, D10, D14, D21 and at weaning (27 ± 0.1 day old). Mortality rate and cause were recorded until 24h period post-treatment and until weaning. Data were analysed using Generalised Linear Mixed Models in SAS. There was no overall effect of treatment on any of the parameters measured. In conclusion, a single oral of fat-based energy supplement dose at birth did not improve growth, survival, rectal temperature or vitality of low birth weight piglets. View Full-Text
Keywords: pig; energy; low birth weight; survival; blood glucose pig; energy; low birth weight; survival; blood glucose

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Schmitt, O.; Baxter, E.M.; Lawlor, P.G.; Boyle, L.A.; O’Driscoll, K. A Single Dose of Fat-Based Energy Supplement to Light Birth Weight Pigs Shortly After Birth Does Not Increase Their Survival and Growth. Animals 2019, 9, 227.

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