How would piglets acquire iron if a human were not there to administer it?

Iron is essential for pigs because it allows the pig to generate hemoglobin and deliver oxygen to tissues throughout its body. When a piglet is born, it has adequate levels of hemoglobin. However, without supplemental iron, the piglet’s amount of hemoglobin will be approximately half of what it was born with by 10 to 14 days of life. With this decrease, the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood is reduced and producers end up with pale, anemic pigs.  

Piglets will obtain small amounts of iron from the sow’s milk, but not enough to satisfy their needs. Piglets will also obtain iron from a balanced ration, but obviously this is not a good option early in the piglet’s life. As a result, special care should be given to make sure all piglets receive an adequate dose of iron early in life, which is best controlled through an injection to monitor dose and avoid adverse effects from too much or too little iron.

Research conducted at Pipestone demonstrated that piglets receiving 150mg of iron prior to 6 days of life performed statistically better than those piglets receiving this same dose of iron at 6 days or older. Therefore, a single injection of 150mg of iron in the first 5 days of a piglet’s life is one of the best ways to guarantee healthy piglets at weaning.

Consult with your veterinarian or with one of our swine specialists with any questions about the iron needs of your pigs.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Adam Schelkopf is a veterinarian with Pipestone Veterinary Services, he located in the Pipestone, MN location. He specialist in swine veterinary medicine.  For more information or questions, feel free to contact Dr. Adam Schelkopf at aschelkopf@pipevet.com  or 507-215-7200.