The feeding of the additive HMB to diets for highly prolific sows has been found to improve piglet welfare and significantly increase productivity, a British study showed.

The study was performed by scientists of the University of Leeds, United Kingdom, commissioned by ABN, a division of AB Agri. The study was recently published in the peer-reviewed title Animal Feed Science and Technology.

Results of the sow and piglet trial

In a press release, it was explained that ABN has devoted a major part of its research effort into increasing survival chances, particularly of the smaller piglet. The study was part of an effort to further understand how maternal nutrition may affect piglet survival, to which end ABN commissioned a PhD (Dr Hannah Davis) at the University of Leeds, over a period of 4 years.

Positive effects on reproductive performance

In their scientific article, the researchers explained that positive effects have been reported on the feed additive β-hydroxy β-methyl butyrate (HMB), on reproductive performance, growth rate and health. That was found both in human and animal studies. They added that research into its effect on sow and litter performance so far had been limited and results would have shown inconsistencies.

The team therefore aimed to determine the effects of supplementation of the feed additive to sows on litter and piglet performance to weaning. To that end, they used 279 multiparous sows across 4 experiments. Sows received either:

  • a control diet; or
  • a diet supplemented with HMB from day 100 of gestation until parturition, which would roughly be day 115.

Colostrum and increased piglet weight

Each trial showed the treatment group associated with an increase in colostrum production consistently increased piglet weight, both at 24 hours after birth, and at weaning. The number of piglets born (total, alive or dead) was not affected by maternal dietary treatments.

Dietary changes increased colostrum by as much as 28%, and increased the concentration of immunoglobulins by almost 10% leading to increased colostrum and immunoglobulin intake by the piglets.

They wrote that overall HMB supplementation to sows at a minimum dose of 15 mg/kg body weight for 15 days prior to parturition significantly increased litter weight at birth with tendencies for litters and average piglet weights to remain heavier at weaning. Supplemental HMB, they concluded, significantly increased the concentration of IgM in colostrum with a significant interaction between diet and experiment for IgG concentration.

Improvement in colostrum intake

Paul Toplis, a technical expert with 45 years of experience of putting science into practice in the pig industry, said, “These results confirm the literature where an improvement in colostrum intake has increased piglet weight through to weaning. The research breaks new ground and confirms ABN’s determination to follow through on this considerable promise, by focusing research and development in this area.”

PigProgress | Vincent ter Beek | April 06,