Pig International - July/August 2017 - 34
34 ❙ PigInternational
How to TREAT IRON
DEFICIENCY in neonatal pigs
There are many ways to treat iron
deﬁciency today, even though injections
remain the most widely employed technique.
BY IOANNIS MAVROMICHALIS
Yet, despite this obviously tremendous importance
placed on iron, sow's milk is exceptionally poor in iron
(about 1 mg/liter). This appears like a paradox, especially if one considers that piglets are born with very low
levels of iron reserves (less than 50 mg in total). If we
accept a daily requirement of 10 mg iron, it is evident
that piglets are certain to develop iron deficiency (anemia) within the first week of life if their only source of
iron is sow's milk. Could this be a "failure in design"?
Despite this apparent anomaly, piglets born in
natural environments (for example, wild boar piglets or
piglets born in outdoors systems) do not develop anemia. This is because they are in constant contact with
soil, which is very rich in iron. Iron ingested as dirt via
natural rooting or by suckling through a soiled udder
is apparently more than enough to cover the needs of
newborn pigs. Thus, it is believed the natural abundance of iron in the pig's environment has reduced
pressure during evolution for the presence of this mineral in adequate amounts in sow's milk. This apparent
anomaly can be described better as natural economy.
In contrast, piglets raised indoors are prone to
develop anemia as they lack access to soil, and most
frequently, only limited access to sow's feces, which
contain high levels of iron. Thus, anemia is a systemic
problem of modern pig production, and it must be addressed properly. By any means, it is not a disease,
although anemia due to infections can also occur, but
this is beyond the scope of this review.
Pigs develop anemia within the first couple weeks
of life, resulting in high mortality rate if left untreated.
Anemic pigs appear pale (white) in color. Their hair is
rough and the skin is wrinkled. Their
growth is severely impaired, and they
frequently develop diarrhea as iron
deficiency makes them less resistant to
diseases. Severe anemia results in
heavy breathing, fatigue, lethargy and
PREVENTIVE TREATMENT IS
ESSENTIAL to avoid reduced growth,
further complications with secondary
diseases and high mortality.
www.WATTAgNet.com ❙ July/August 2017
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Iron (Fe) is the most abundant trace mineral in the body.
Although its nutritional value has been known for over
2,500 years, its role has only recently been truly appreciated in both human and animal nutrition. Iron is an integral part of hemoglobin and myoglobin, both of which
play a central role in the exchange of oxygen and carbon
dioxide between blood and muscles. Iron also plays an
important role in the function of many enzymes, including those in the Krebs Cycle, the major cascade of
reactions that "fire" the energy metabolism in the body
of animals. As such, the role of iron in the organism can
only be described as indispensable.