Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Animal Science


A sow’s diet can influence and her offspring not only in the suckling period, but well after weaning. The objective of this study was to determine how supplementing medium chain fatty acids (MCFA) in gestation and lactation impacted offspring growth performance as well as the biological markers of pig quality from the suckling period until week 6 of the nursery period. A total of 77 primparious and multiparious females and their 438 offspring were utilized in this study. Sows and gilts (218.15 kg ± 32.15 kg BW at d28 of gestation) were assigned to one of 2 dietary treatments: Control (UNSUP) and control + MCFA (SUP). At weaning, 438 piglets (5.66 ± 1.37 kg BW) were allocated in a 2x2 factorial based on maternal diet (UNSUP or SUP) and post-weaning diet (UNSUPnurs or SUPnurs) in a 3-phase nursery pig feeding program lasting 42 days. Following birth of the first piglet and prior to suckling, colostrum was collected using gentle stripping from all teats for a total volume of 40 mL and at d 4 or 5 of lactation, a milk sample was collected. Microbial analysis of piglet fecal samples at d 10, d 24, and d 63 of age were completed to determine the relative proportion of Lactobacillus, Escherichia coli, and Salmonella. Colostrum and milk samples were analyzed for protein, lactose, total solids, and fat (Division of Regulatory Services, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY). At weaning, one of the “average” piglets from the selected litters was euthanized, and 10 cm of the ileum was removed and placed in a 15 mL conical tube containing 5 mL of 10% buffered formalin solution for histology analysis. Suckling piglets were weighed at d7 of age and at weaning. In the nursery period, pigs were weighed, and feed disappearance was measured at week 1 (for study 2), 2, 4 and 6. No effect of maternal diet was observed for sow BW at d 110 (228.63 ± 3.12 kg) or weaning (211.92 ± 3.15 kg), piglet birth weight (1.38 ± 0.05 kg), piglet wean weight (5.74 ± 0.11 kg), or litter size (14.40 ± 0.44). The SUP sows had greater daily feed intake (P < 0.05) compared to the sows fed the control diet. In the nursery phase there was no maternal diet supplementation effect for all measured response variables and no effect of nursery dietary treatment At birth, UNSUP litters had a larger percentage of average piglets (69.75% UNSUP, 59.02% SUP), a lesser percentage of light piglets (15.41% UNSUP, 19.67%) and a lesser percentage of heavy weight piglets (14.84% UNSUP, 21.31% SUP; χ2 < 0.01). At weaning, UNSUP sows tended to have a larger percentage of average piglets (71.68% UNSUP, 66.60% SUP), a lesser percentage of light piglets (13.49% UNSUP, 18.24% SUP) and they had lesser heavy weight birth piglets (14.84% UNSUP, 15.16% SUP; χ2 = 0.10). Inclusion of MCFA in gestation and lactation increased sow lactation daily feed intake. Colostral fat content was not impacted by maternal dietary treatment (P = 0.70). Colostral protein content increased (P = 0.04) in SUP sows compared to UNSUP. Colostral lactose content in UNSUP sows tended to increase (P = 0.06) compared to SUP sows. UNSUP sows tended (P = 0.07) to have decreased colostral total solids and decreased (P = 0.04) colostral solids not fat content compared to SUP sows. Milk composition was not affected by dietary treatment. Similarly, colostrum immunocrit was not altered by maternal dietary treatment. Serum immunocrit was decreased (P = 0.01) in SUP piglet serum compared to UNSUP piglet serum. Colostral IgG as well as milk IgG was not impacted by supplementation of MCFA in the maternal diet. Similarly, villus height, crypt depth, and their ratio at weaning was also not impacted by maternal dietary treatment. The Lactobacillus content from the suckling period (d 10 of age) tended to be a greater population (P = 0.08) in SUP piglets compared to UNSUP piglets. In the nursery period (39% and 19%) SUP pigs more respectively maintained the slightly greater proportion of Lactobacillus compared to UNSUP pigs. The addition of MCFA in the maternal dietary treatment improved feed intake, biological markers of the piglets such as colostrum quality and the gut microbiome in the suckling and nursery periods. In lactation, feed intake is a key limiting factor for milk output, thus MCFA may contribute to improved sow milk output. Colostral proteins is predominately made up of immunoglobulins, which aid in providing the piglet passive immunity. Increasing colostral proteins could increase immunoglubins for the piglet. Lactobacillus is known as a “good” bacterium and can indicate a healthy pig. Increasing the abundance of Lactobacillus in the gut, especially at weaning, can be a mechanism to ensure pigs get off to the proper start and grow in those first few weeks in the nursery.

Number of Pages



South Dakota State University

Included in

Meat Science Commons



Rights Statement

In Copyright