Industry Partners

Prairie Swine Centre is an affiliate of the University of Saskatchewan

Prairie Swine Centre is grateful for the assistance of the George Morris Centre in developing the economics portion of Pork Insight.

Financial support for the Enterprise Model Project and Pork Insight has been provided by:

Author(s): House, J.D. (Jim), P.Ag., Ph.D.
Publication Date: January 1, 2003
Country: Canada


Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, plays a central role in allowing animals to efficiently utilize dietary energy and protein. With respect to protein utilization, vitamin B12 acts to help animals use the sulphur amino acid methionine, a limiting amino acid in some swine diets. A deficiency of dietary vitamin B12 can lead to depressed tissue and plasma B12 concentrations, reduced growth and feed efficiency. Additionally, a deficiency of dietary B12 can lead to the accumulation in blood and tissues of a toxic metabolite known as homocysteine. At elevated concentrations, this metabolite has been shown to negatively impact the fundamental processes that lead to muscle growth, including DNA synthesis and protein accretion. Therefore, adequate dietary B12 levels are critical to ensure that the level of this metabolite is kept in check. A primary factor to consider for vitamin B12 nutrition relates to the dietary sources of this vitamin. Vitamin B12 is considered the “Animal Vitamin” because the primary dietary sources of this vitamin are animal products, such as milk powder, fishmeal, and meat meal. Plantbased ingredients do not contain appreciable levels of this vitamin. Therefore, pig diets, because they are cereal-based, require additional sources of vitamin B12 in the form of a synthetic vitamin found in premixes. The level of vitamin B12 required in the final diet will depend on the age and stage of swine. For young pigs weighing 5 to 10 kg, the current published value for vitamin B12 requirements is 17.5 micrograms per kilogram of diet. These estimates are based on extrapolations from studies with heavier, older pigs conducted over 40 years ago. In light of the central role that vitamin B12 plays in protein and energy metabolism, we conducted experiments to define the optimum level required in the diet to meet the needs of the young pig. While growth and feed efficiency were important criteria, we also used sensitive measures of vitamin B12 status, including plasma B12 and homocysteine concentrations. Our research supports a new estimate for vitamin B12 (cobalamin) requirement for early-weaned piglets. For pigs weighing 5-10 kg, the addition of 35 micrograms of vitamin B12 to a kilogram of diet is necessary to avoid accumulations in the toxic metabolite homocysteine that, if left unattended, could lead to depressions in performance and health as the animal ages.

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