Vitamin Supplementation in Young Pigs

Written by: Gary Asche, Ph.D., Form-A-Feed Nutritionist

Over the last 4 to 5 years there have been more cases of sub-optimal vitamin D status in young pigs.  Experience from producers and vets suggest that the Peri-weaning Failure to Thrive Syndrome (PFTS) is also related to suboptimal vitamin D.  The vitamin D levels in colostrum are low and even lower in sow’s milk and higher levels of vitamin D fed to sows are not transferred into sow’s milk.  Thus, pigs at weaning have low or less than optimal vitamin D status and the larger litter sizes that are now common can further degrade the vitamin D status such that some pigs are low or deficient.  The low feed intake during the first several days up to a week post-weaning is also contributing factor. 

Vitamin E status in young pigs is also very important and can be sub-optimal for young newly-weaned pigs for several reasons.  First, as noted above, low feed intake during the first few days post-weaning, and second, synthetic vitamin E from feed has up to eight different forms or ‘isomers,” thus it is less efficiently utilized by pigs compared to natural vitamin E (one isomer form) in sow’s milk or natural vitamin E derived from vegetable oils.  Both synthetic and natural vitamin E added to feed are stabilized by adding an ester.  The young, newly weaned pigs may not have the proper level of enzyme (esterase) to remove the ester from the esterified (stabilized form) of vitamin E prior to absorption from the intestine.  Once the vitamin E is absorbed, the transport protein in the liver also recognizes and bind natural vitamin E faster or preferentially versus synthetic vitamin E.

Oral supplementation of vitamin D and E to weaned piglets is a helpful strategy to help bridge the gap of low vitamin D and E status.  Supplementing the drinking water with vitamin D and E is the easiest way to supplement pigs post-weaning.  For several years, Form-A-Feed has been recommending a liquid vitamin E and D product in the water to help deal with the vitamin E and D issues noted above.  The product is called EMCELLE® E-D3 LIQUID, a water dispersible form of vitamin E (500 I.U. per ml) and vitamin D (30,000 I.U. per ml).  Both fat soluble vitamins are processed into very tiny droplets so that vitamins D and E are water dispersible which is also needed by the young pig for efficient utilization.   The EMCELLE® product is unique in providing non-esterified vitamin E and both vitamin E and D in a form for better absorption and water dispersible (small micelle or droplet).  Form-A-Feed recommends this product to be added to the drinking water for the first 7 to 10 days post-weaning by adding 1 to 3 ounces per gallon of stock solution and setting proportioner to meter one fluid ounce of stock solution into each gallon of drinking water.  This helps to get newly-weaned pigs off to a faster start and help avoid issues with low vitamin E status (mulberry heart) and low vitamin D status pigs (PFTS).   Vitamin E and D are involved with many important functions ranging from an anti-oxidant, bone development, immunity, reproduction and others.  Thus, a small investment of $0.05 to $0.10 per pig can easily be recovered from less need for pig treatment, better feed intake and growth, and fewer culls and mortality.