Animal WelfareProductivity & Profit

Written by Christoph Hutter, Product Manager Feed Additives, ADDCON GmbH and Dr. Christian Lückstädt, Technical Director Feed, ADDCON GmbH.

The successful rearing of many high-quality DanBred piglets is centred around the attentive management of the sows as well as the piglets. When working with new-born piglets, it is important to look at all factors that influence and determine their subsequent performance, as this can directly influence the success of the overall pig production.

The piglets’ first contact with the outside environment is important, both for their future growth and health. One of the most common causes of piglet losses in the first days after farrowing is diarrhoea due to infection instigated by harmful bacteria (mainly E. coli) found in the farrowing environment (usually originating from the sow’s faeces).

Adding potassium diformate (KDF, such as FORMI®) to the sow diet during gestation and lactation have shown to directly impact the health of new-born piglets, since the use of KDF can reduce the number of E. coli in the faeces of sows significantly (table 1).


Table 1: Reduction of E. coli in faeces of sows before and after feeding with 1.0 % KDF and 0.2 % monolaurate from day 100 of gestation until day four of lactation (Hittel & Lückstädt, 2017).


This can positively affect the health of the new-born piglets (Hittel & Lückstädt, 2017) reducing the risk of diarrhoea in the first days after farrowing, due to the lower number of bacteria in the environment into which the piglets were born.

As all piglets are born with scarce energy reserves (Mellor & Cockburn, 1986; Theil et al., 2014) and lack immunoglobulins (Bourne, 1969), it is of vital importance that they ingest adequate amounts of quality colostrum to provide energy and passive immunity to ensure their survival and development (Le Dividich et al., 2005; Quesnel et al., 2012).

Using dietary KDF in the sow’s feed before and during lactation has shown a positive effect in new-born piglets as for example higher birthweights of piglets (Lückstädt et al., 2017). During lactation, piglets from sows fed with KDF (in the state of FORMI®) tended to have a higher average daily gain (figure 1), which resulted in significantly increased litter weights at weaning.


Figure 1: Daily weight gain of piglets during lactation of sows fed with or without FORMI® (Landkildehus, 2001)


The growth-promoting impact of 0.8 % dietary KDF in the lactation diet of sows was further confirmed by Durst et al. (2012), who found significantly increased weight gains during weaning by almost 8 %, with lower backfat losses for the sow (67 %). Lückstädt et al. (2012) reported that due to the use of 0.8 % KDF in the lactation diet of sows, the number of weaned piglets tended to be increased, while on the other hand the losses during the weaning period were significantly reduced by 50 %.

KDF has also shown to give an antimicrobial effect on the adverse microflora which can be found the intestinal tract of sows (mainly Enterobacteria) thus improving the gut health of the sows. In addition the number of the desired Lactobacilli in sows and piglets have shown to be positively affected (Øverland et al., 2009). Studies in piglets have reported improved growth performance from birth from improved microbial conditions at farrowing and sow milk output, which is directly correlated to sow feed intake from farrowing onwards.

Øverland et al. (2009) found that adding KDF (in the state of FORMI®) to lactation diets, increased the fat concentration of sow milk starting from day 12 after farrowing (figure 2), seemingly due to improved ability to digest the feed.


Figure 2: Impact of FORMI® on milk fat content of sows during lactation (Øverland et al., 2009) (P < 0.05)


The increase in milk fat content gave higher weaning weights of piglets and also positively affected the microbial population in the gastro-intestinal tract of the sows, therefore providing a healthier environment for the new-born piglets, increasing survival rates till weaning. Additionally, decreasing the number of harmful bacteria in the faeces of sows can lower the risk of developing mastitis, metritis and agalactia (MMA) syndrome in the sows.

Regular use of KDF is therefore recommended in the lactation diet of sows, not only to improve the overall condition of the sow, but also the subsequent positive impact on survival and performance of their piglets, leading to a higher number of weaned quality piglets and an overall increase in litter weaning weight. Moreover a good transition during weaning can optimise the fattening period, further benefitting the overall pig production.

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Reference List

Bourne, F. J. (1969) ‘Studies on colostral and milk whey proteins in the sow 1. The transition of mammary secretion from colostrum to milk with natural suckling’, Animal Science, 11(3), pp. 337–343.

Durst, L. Theobald, P. & Lückstädt, C. (2012) ‘ Effects of dietary potassium diformate in sows during pre-farrowing till weaning on piglet performance and health – a practical approach in Germany’ Advance in Animal Biosciences, April 2012, Vol. 3 (1), p. 67.

Landkildehus, P. (2001) ‘Effect of K-diformate in the diet for lactating sows on production performance’ Korn-of-Foderstof Kompagniet, Viby, Report sow trial 200 (internal), pp. 1-6.

Le Dividich, J. Rooke, J.A. & Herpin, P. (2005) ‘Nutritional and immunological importance of colostrum for the new-born pig.’, Journal of Agricultural Science, 143(6), pp. 469–485.

Lückstädt, C. Theobald, P. Wegleitner, K. & Durst, L. (2012) ‘ Dietary potassium diformate in sows during pre-farrowing till weaning – effects on piglet performance and survival’, BOKU-Symposium Tierernährung, pp. 245-247.

Lückstädt, C. Hittel, J. & Hutter, C. (2017) ‘Dietary sodium diformate and medium chain fatty acids in sows during late gestation and lactation – performance improvements in suckling piglets.’ Proceedings 55. BAT-Tagung, Freising, Germany. pp. 168-172.

Hittel, J. & Lückstädt, C. (2017) ‘Dietary potassium diformate and medium chain fatty acids – support for a healthy gut in sows during late gestation.’, BOKU-Symposium Tierernährung, pp. 91–94.

Mellor, D.J. & Cockburn, F. (1986) ‘A comparison of energy metabolism in the new-born infant, piglet and lamb.’, Quarterly Journal of Experimental Physiology, 71(3), pp. 361–379.
Øverland, M., Bikker, P. & Fledderus, J. (2009) ‘Potassium diformate in the diet of reproducing sows: Effect on performance of sows and litters’, Livestock Science. Elsevier B.V., 122(2–3), pp. 241–247.

Quesnel, H., Farmer, C. & Devillers, N. (2012) ‘Colostrum intake: Influence on piglet performance and factors of variation’, Livestock Science, 146(2–3), pp. 105–114.
Theil, P.K. Flummer, C. Hurley, W.L. Kristensen, N.B. Labouriau, R.L. Sørensen, M. T. (2014) ‘Mechanistic model to predict colostrum intake based on deuterium oxide dilution technique data and impact of gestation and prefarrowing diets on piglet intake and sow yield of colostrum’, Journal of Animal Science, 92(12), pp. 5507–5519.


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