Swine Cluster 1

Novel nutritional strategies for optimum sow and piglet productivity 

Project leaders

  • Martin Lessard, Dairy and Swine R&D Centre, AAFC, Sherbrooke, Québec 
  • Kees de Lange, Department of Animal and Poultry Science, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario 
  • Ron Ball, Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutritional Science, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta

Project objective

The ultimate goal is to develop unique Canadian feeding management strategies for optimum sow and piglet productivity, taking into consideration production efficiencies, including pig performance 

up to market weight, food safety, pig welfare and use of antibiotics. 

We shall investigate underlying mechanisms so that we capitalize 

on potential synergies between the different sow and piglet feeding strategies that are evaluated. Secondary goals are to further stimulate interactions among multidisciplinary (physiology, immunology, microbiology, nutrition) Canadian swine researchers in nutrition. 

Summary of the project

In this research project, various dietary means will be explored to: 

1.Best meet the nutrient requirement of sows during gestation and 

early lactation, 

2.Stimulate the development and health of the gut, immune function 

and productivity of nursing and newly-weaned piglets, and  

3.Determine the long-term impact of post-weaning feeding strategies on growth performance and disease resistance up to market weight, as well as carcass and meat quality.  

To achieve these objectives, a number of activities will be undertaken in several different provinces: 

1.The importance of in utero vs post-natal transfer of some 

vitamins and minerals in pig

Activity leader: Jacques Matte and Martin Lessard, AAFC, 

Sherbrooke, Québec.   

This activity is designed to evaluate the importance of in utero and 

post-natal transfer of some vitamins of the B complex and minerals 

such as Zn and Cu. 

2.Development of novel feeding strategies aiming to improve 

gut development, defense functions, health and performance 

of piglets 

Activity leader: Martin Lessard. AAFC, Sherbrooke, Québec.     

This activity is designed to evaluate the influence of administering 

nutraceuticals (vitamins, trace minerals, nucleotides, essential 

fatty acids) and functional feed ingredients (cranberry, milk by-

products, yeast-derived products, probiotics, prebiotics) during 

lactation and the peri-weaning period to best meet piglets needs     

according to their stage of development.  

3.Biomarkers to relate management of piglets post-weaning 

to subsequent growth performance, carcass and meat quality 

Activity leader: Kees De Lange, University of Guelph, Ontario. 

This activity is designed to identify of the relationship of diet quality 

and use of antibiotics with starter pig performance, on performance 

up to market weight, carcass and meat quality, and response to an 

immune challenge. Also, this could help to develop of simple test on 

blood or selected tissues (biomarkers) that could be used to predict 

the impact of starter pig management on productivity of growing-

finishing pigs, including susceptibility to disease challenges. 

4.Sow nutrition during gestation 

Activity leader: Ron Ball, University of Alberta, Alberta. 

This activity is designed to obtain information on 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 

4th limiting amino acids for sows and discreet values for the 

requirement of 3rd limiting amino acids for gestating sows. Also, 

this activity could help in identifying information on appropriateness 

of the phase feeding program and prepare a recommendation to the 


Significant achievements

1.The importance of in utero vs post-natal transfer of some 

vitamins and minerals in pig

The animal phase of this project was completed in June 2011. 

The laboratory phase is in progress and completed at about 30%. 

2.Development of novel feeding strategies aiming to improve 

of piglets gut development, defense functions, health and performance 

Animal experimentation is underway at the Dairy and Swine  

Research Centre (DSRC) as well as in a commercial condition. 

Animal experimentation in commercial conditions, lead by Frédéric 

Guay, will be completed by the end of December 2011. In this 

experimentation, animal performances are measured and blood 

and tissue samples are taken to evaluate the influence of dietary 

treatments on markers related to inflammation and oxidative status, 

integrity of intestinal mucosa and activity of digestive enzymes. 

The laboratory phase is also in progress. Overall, the project is 

completed at about 30%. The other sub-project realized at the 

DSRC and lead by Mr. Lessard, the animal phase is completed at 

about 50% and will be terminated by April 2012. Gut samplings and 

blood samples are taken to evaluate influence of  treatments on 

intestinal bacterial populations and immune  response in weanling 

pigs. Overall, the project is completed at about 25%.  

3.Biomarkers to relate management of piglets post-weaning 

to subsequent growth performance, carcass and meat quality 

Feeding rather simple, corn and soybean meal based diets to    

nursery pigs reduced post-weaning growth performance, but had no 

long-term effect on growth performance in the growing-finishing 

phase, days from weaning to market and carcass characteristics. 

Therefore, a reduction in feed costs may be obtained in the nursery  

phase by feeding less complex diets without compromising  subsequent growth performance and carcass value. Further 

research is underway to explore the impact of nursery feeding 

program on measures of gut development, changes in gut 

microflora, and bio-markers (blood metabolites and gene 

expression). These aspects of animal physiology may be used 

to estimate the impact of nursery feeding program on short and 

long-term changes in pig growth performance. 

4.Sow nutrition during gestation 

The experimental determination of the order of amino acid limitation  

in late pregnancy is completed. Reducing dietary threonine by 60% 

compared to an adequate control diet increased indicator amino acid 

oxidation and reduced plasma free threonine more than deletions of 

lysine, tryptophan or branched-chain amino acids. This suggests 

that in late pregnancy threonine is likely the first limiting amino acid, 

and that diet formulation needs to consider threonine as well as 

lysine. The determination of the requirement for the third-limiting 

amino acid, tryptophan, in early and late gestation is in progress. 

The animal work has been completed and preliminary results 

indicate that late gestation requirement is 50% greater than early 

gestation requirement. 



Associated Documents


Can Simple Nursery Diets Save You Money? - Newsletter October 2012 


Feeding Sows More Efficiently - Newsletter October 2012


Farmscape interview: November 2012 - Research Shows Less Complex Nursery Diets Reduce Feeding Costs Without Hurting Performance


Farmscape interview: November 2012 - Research Shows Phase Feeding Gestating Sows Saves on Feed Costs


Farmscape interview: November 2012 - Research Raises Questions About Role of Nutrition in Pigs' Ability to Fight Disease


Farmscape interview: January 2013 - Nutritional Requirements of Gestating Sows Increase as Pregnancy Develops


Farmscape interview: January 2013 - Heightened Nutrition During Late Pregnancy Improves Piglet Health and Sow Longevity