Vitamin D status improves lifetime herd performance

Geoff Handley

“The modern, high performing sow, needs strong nutritional support for fetal development, birthing process, milking and re-breeding successfully” said Geoff Handley, Senior Swine Lead for DSM in APAC. “Whilst this is an obvious statement, I still see too many sows that start well but finish badly, because of poor bone strength and leg structure. This can be caused by the large call on mineral reserves, whose mobilization can be limited by below optimal Vitamin D levels.”

In a recent DSM webinar on Gilt and Sow productivity, Dr Ken Stalder of Iowa State University noted the ripple effect of poor skeletal strength. “If a sow has sore feet and legs, she does not want to stand up and eat in farrowing, so she’s obviously going to get thin. If she gets thin when she gets weaned, she may not cycle in a timely manner. If she does not cycle in a timely manner, she may not cycle at all. If she cycles, she may not conceive, or if she conceives, she may not hold that litter until she farrows or indeed have lower numbers born.”

“Proper attention to Calcium, Phosphorus and other mineral balance is of course critical to ensuring best bone strength, but all that will be in vain if Vitamin D status is underdone” noted Geoff Handley. “The growing gilt; the pregnant sow carrying rapidly developing piglets; the calcium drag for birthing contractions; and the huge metabolic drive for milk production are all critical points where Vit D mobilization can be limited at the liver conversion of Vit D3 to its active form 25-OH D3”.

“DSM’s proprietary Hy-D, supplements the existing Vit D3 pathways by eliminating the need for that liver conversion step, allowing 25-OH D3 to be absorbed more quickly and consistently,” said Mr Handley. Using Hy-D has been shown over many trials and in long term commercial use, to improve structure and mobility scores allowing increased selection rate of gilts; reducing the number of sows with farrowing difficulties; and reducing the main cause of early sow loss from a herd being lameness.”

These ongoing and proven benefits, allow the herd to have a higher sow retention rate, so a bigger percentage of herd are active through their most productive 3rd, 4th and 5th litters. These are sows that best pay for their fixed cost of gilt production and nurture and are also the sows with largest litters to contribute to the all-important meat sold index.