Researchers at Texas Tech University have conducted gilt and sow performance trials to determine the effect of dietary supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids. The trials involved lactating sows and looked at diets with and without high protein levels.   

The researchers looked at 64 pregnant gilts that had an average body weight of 195 kg and backfat thickness of 12.9 mm. The animals were divided up and assigned one of four dietary treatments that were fed from the 60th day of gestation to the 21st day of lactation.

Body weight, backfat thickness and blood samples were collected on the 60th and 110th day of gestation. After farrowing, the same collections were made on the 10th and 21st day of lactation. Researchers counted total piglets per litter and live-born piglets. They also recorded birth weights within 12 hours after the sows farrowed.

The researchers found that supplementing omega-3 fatty acids increased both 20:5n-3 and 22:6n-3 contents in colostrum and mature milk. First-parity litter size and piglet body weight at birth did not differ among treatment groups. However, an omega-3 fatty-acid-supplemented diet significantly increased the ultimate piglet weights in both the first and second parities. Ultimately they found that a high protein level in the lactation diet did not affect litter weight.

Results further indicate that omega-3 fatty acids alone during lactation improved growth of nursing piglets regardless of the sow’s parity. However, omega-3 fatty acids supplemented with or without high protein did not affect first-parity gestation performance. Finally, omega-3 fatty acids alone may improve piglet birth weight in the subsequent litter.