Most of us are aware of vitamin supplements used by humans to support the immune system during times of stress or health challenges. The winter months and the prevalence of PRRS and Influenza create challenges to young pigs’ immune systems. Vitamins can play an important role in supporting pig health.

Vitamin E helps prevent oxidative damage to cells in young pigs during times of rapid growth and stress.  It is typically known for its role against such conditions as edema, heart damage and Mulberry Heart Disease. Vitamin E also is important for proper immune function. The stress of weaning and commingling, combined with the removal of immune protection from the sow, makes young pigs susceptible to a variety of diseases. Addition of vitamin E through the water in the most biologically available form will help ensure properly functioning antioxidant and immune functions, and improve the effectiveness of vaccines.

Vitamin D is most often thought of through its association with the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. Additional Vitamin D given in the water to young pigs has been observed to increase activity in pigs, resulting in better feed intake and growth. This has especially been valuable in unthrifty nursery pigs. Another function of vitamin D is to support the immune system, adding to the boost provided by vitamins C and E.

Vitamin C may be the best known vitamin for its support in the human immune system. It is an antioxidant in multiple tissues and works in conjunction with vitamin E and selenium. We are limited in the amount of selenium that can be given to pigs, so vitamin C adds to the strength of the antioxidant system. Vitamin C also helps with the conversion of vitamin D to its active form.

Steve Toft, swine specialist with Hubbard Feeds, reports that producer have had positive experiences with Vita-CDE, a combination of all three of these vitamins. It is in a liquid form that mixes easily to provide supplementation through the water and is compatible with other treatments that are administered through water. Vita-CDE is effective when pigs are rapidly growing, unthrifty, experiencing health challenges or are facing potential stress situations. Nursery managers are seeing more even pigs at the end of the nursery stage and a reduced number of fader and fall back pigs compared to pigs not supplemented with the product. The cost is about $.08 per pig for seven days in the nursery, so it only takes a slight improvement in performance or reduction in mortality, to pay for the product and time to implement.

With a favorable futures market, livability equals profitability and extra vitamin supplementation can provide the extra boost health-challenged pigs need.