Prenatal death and fetal growth restrictions may be alleviated by dietary adjustments that can enhance placental growth, thereby promoting an optimal intrauterine environment throughout pregnancy, according to USDA Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service-funded research.
Naturally occurring limitations in the placenta’s ability to supply an adequate amount of nutrients to the fetus can result in prenatal death and restrict fetal growth. These factors are further compounded by the restricted feeding practices designed to prevent excessive weight gain in gestating sows. A research team of scientists at Texas A&M University and Texas Tech University found that sows may not receive sufficient amounts of certain nutrients during mid- to late-gestation to support rapid growth of their fetuses and mammary tissues. Among the nutrients is arginine, an amino acid that’s a building block for tissue proteins.

Arginine plays multiple roles in animal metabolism by serving as a substrate for the synthesis of various important molecules that enhance placental growth (including placental vascular growth). Ultimately, this can result in increased utero-placental blood flow and, therefore, improved transfer of nutrients from mother to fetus.

Guoyao Wu, Sung Woo Kim and colleagues discovered that prenatal death in swine could be greatly reduced by supplementing standard corn/soybean meal-based sow diets with an additional 0.83 percent arginine between days 30 and 114 of the gestation period. Compared to the control sows that received no additional arginine, the supplementation increased the number of pigs born alive by two and total litter weight by 24 percent.

This recent discovery may result in a significant economic return to pork producers, say researchers, as it will markedly reduce the production costs associated with sow reproduction and lactation. Of course, the newborn piglets’ increased weight and vitality will increase their survival rate to weaning, as well. For more information, visit www.csrees.usda.gov.