Pork Insight Articles

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Author(s): L. Eastwood, A.D. Beaulieu
Publication Date: April 18, 2012
Reference: Centred on Swine 17-2
Country: Canada


Our experiments demonstrated that feeding n3 fatty acids to sows can affect piglet responses to immune challenges at weaning. We also showed that feeding piglets’ starter diets with n3’s in the nursery can also modulate their inflammatory reactions. Altering the n6:n3 fatty acid ratio in either sow or piglet diets can affect febrile and inflammatory cell responses of piglets when challenged with E. Coli LPS post-weaning.

When sows consumed an n6:n3 ratio of 1:1, their piglets had elevated body temperatures and a greater response to the immune challenge compared to piglets from sows consuming the other diets. When fed to piglets, a ratio of 5:1 n6:n3 tended to increase production of some inflammatory cells, but did not affect body temperature.

Based on these results we hypothesize that either the n6 fatty acids are not as inflammatory as we originally thought; or alternatively, that there is an ‘optimal’ n6:n3 ratio in the diet. Going below this ‘optimal’ ratio, the energy required to generate the immune response takes nutrients away from growth and can actually be a hindrance to piglet productivity and health.

Based on our preliminary results, we can recommend that pork producers include plant based n3 fatty acids such as those found in flaxseed, into the diets of lactating sows or newly weaned piglets, but to ensure that the ratio does not go below 5:1 n6:n3. Further experiments are being conducted to determine the consequences of generating immune responses, and the implications on animal health and performance.

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