22 November 2018 – It is widely recognised that modern sow herds cope with numerous challenges during the peripartal period, including dystocia, hypogalactia, low birth weight and perinatal mortality. Examining these standalone challenges in more detail, it becomes clear that each one is related to the other through a highly complex web of interactions experienced by mother sows and piglets.

This cluster of closely related challenges is known as sow peripartal syndrome. Sow peripartal syndrome eventually leads to suboptimal profitability and performance. By understanding challenges that occur during gestation, parturition, and the post-farrowing period, innovative solutions that positively influence the underlying factors will be developed. The new solutions will focus on achieving improved performance and animal welfare.

To tackle sow peripartal syndrome, Trouw Nutrition has expanded its LifeStart Swine concept from birth into the prenatal phase to address how conditions occurring in the prenatal phase can impact an animal’s lifelong performance. Feedinfo News Service spoke to Ruben Decaluwe, technical manager – swine at Trouw Nutrition to find out more.

[Feedinfo News Service] Mr. Decaluwe, what is Trouw Nutrition’s understanding of the piglet’s prenatal phase and of “sow peripartal syndrome”?

Ruben Decaluwe
Technical manager – swine Trouw Nutrition

[Ruben Decaluwe] Early life, from conception up until 6 weeks of life, is a period of growth and development that’s more significant than any other time in a piglet’s life. With all of the piglet’s organs and tissues being formed during this time, it offers a unique opportunity to shape the animal’s lifelong performance. At the core of the LifeStart programme is creating a healthy and productive environment for rearing piglets, by positively influencing health, nutrition and management during the critical phases in a piglet’s early life – from conception through to weaning. Trouw Nutrition and the LifeStart programme focus on the health and performance of both sows and piglets, harnessing high-quality nutrition to boost the welfare and performance of individual animals and herds.

We have a long history of providing specialized technical support and expertise to customers dealing with challenges related to the peripartal period. Our local technical teams possess excellent knowledge of these individual issues and how to deal with them. However, positioning these challenges within the sphere of sow peripartal syndrome, and acknowledging its complex interactions, allows us to better investigate the underlying causes. By focusing on the root of the problem, we are able to provide structural solutions to minimise the incidence and severity of these challenges.

[Feedinfo News Service] Trouw Nutrition highlights four piglet paramaters which are integral to unlocking piglets’ lifetime performance. What are these parameters and why are they so important to performance across a pig’s life?

[Ruben Decaluwe] The four defined parameters are: being born alive, birth weight, colostrum intake, and vitality. These are the key entry points to understanding sow peripartal syndrome, and they can be easily interpreted and monitored at the farm level. There is clear scientific data to show that these parameters are essential for future lifetime performance. If a piglet is deprived of any of these, the chances of achieving good lifetime performance and welfare will already have been compromised. The first factor – being born alive – is quite obvious because, unless the piglet is born alive, we cannot talk about further lifetime. Interestingly, most stillborn piglets die during the farrowing process and are in fact healthy at the onset of farrowing. There is huge potential for improvement in this area. The other three factors – birth weight, colostrum intake and vitality – have all been positively associated with lifetime performance by numerous authors. We are currently preparing more detailed information on each of these.

It is important to understand that, while these four parameters are pivotal for lifetime performance, there are other issues involved. These paramaters are themselves determined by numerous underlying factors and pathways, each of which contributes to sow peripartal syndrome. What’s more, it’s at least as important to understand that the first six weeks of a piglet’s life remain critical for lifetime performance. In this way, we can say that lifestart does not start at birth, but rather at conception.

[Feedinfo News Service] Are similar parameters guiding your work with other species?

[Ruben Decaluwe] LifeStart is a cross-species concept working with calves, piglets and chicks, each of which has untapped potential. Our focus will remain on these three species over the coming years. Each animal species has its own unique physiology and requires a specialized, dedicated approach, which is why the specific parameters being researched differ from species to species. For this reason, at Trouw Nutrition, we have dedicated R&D teams for swine, poultry and ruminants, as well as research facilities in Canada, Spain and the Netherlands. Our priority is delivering the best solutions for each of these species.

[Feedinfo News Service] In which markets do you think prenatal and neonatal feeding of piglets concepts are lacking? Are there specific global markets more exposed to sow peripartal syndrome?

[Ruben Decaluwe] Sow peripartal syndrome is inherent to sow production, though different factors make it more prevalent in certain markets and environments than others. Increasingly, the hyperprolific sow is becoming the most important sow type in all regions of the world. We should look at these sows as top-class athletes that are expected to perform at their maximum level all of the time. This means that the risk of the balance tipping in the wrong direction is higher, and delivering optimal support to these animals in all aspects of feed, farm and health is crucial. On the other hand, other types of sows are subject to the same physiological pathways and, as such, can also develop sow peripartal syndrome if certain factors are suboptimal. While, the probability of them developing clear visual deviations is lower, there is still the possibility of subclinical production losses leading to suboptimal lifetime performance. Consequently, the risk of sows developing sow peripartal syndrome is present in all regions and under all conditions. It’s all about the balance between the expectations placed on the sows and the support given to them.

[Feedinfo News Service] The new findings in the piglet programme could ultimately lead to new offerings by Trouw Nutrition. What kind do you have in mind? And how rapidly can Trouw convert R&D discoveries to new marketable solutions?

[Ruben Decaluwe] Currently, Trouw Nutrition’s researchers are working on investigating the underlying causes of certain states of piglet parameters at birth. Having an in-depth understanding of the physiological processes behind sow peripartal syndrome will help us to develop solutions and services to ensure the optimum quality of piglets from birth, and set foundations for healthy growth, vitality and performance. New offerings will focus on achieving the best quality of piglets from birth.

As far as the timeframe is concerned, all our solutions have to go through an extensive validation process before they reach the market. The first one is expected to be available in the second half of 2019.