19 Apr 2022

Fatty acid feeding and its effects on sows’ milk

The use of different nutritional tools may allow the transfer of specific fatty acids to milk and colostrum from sows through dietary manipulation. Making it possible to transfer fatty acids to the piglet before and after weaning through early nutrition.

Fatty acid feeding and its effects on sows’ milk

Fatty acid feeding and its effects on sows’ milk. Fatty acids present in sow’s diets have been shown to have the capacity of being transferred to piglets through colostrum and milk.

Research interests in swine nutrition currently focus on gastrointestinal functionality and optimal immune function. With a special focus on the post-weaning period, in which a high intake of antibiotics is used to prevent enteric diseases.

ácidos grasosHowever, very little attention has been given to the impacts of lipid nutrition and more specifically the role of dietary fatty acids on gut health and pig development.

Most of the dietary fatty acids (FA)  are bound to triglycerides (TG), which is quantitatively the most important lipid fraction in the pigs’ diet. Contributing more than 95% of the fat within the diet. In addition, dietary fat consists of phospholipids (PL), commonly present as lecithin, and lower contents of cholesterol, cholesterol esters, and fat-soluble vitamins (Read also “Vitamin E: Effect on immunity and fertility in pigs”).

fatty acids

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Lipid digestibility

Digestion of dietary lipids begins with an emulsification in the stomach where a partial degradation of TGs takes place. However, the main digestion results from hydrolysis with pancreatic lipase. The lipid emulsion enters the small intestine as fine lipid droplets where the combined action of bile and pancreatic juice produce a significant change in the chemical and physical form of the ingested lipid emulsion.

Under normal conditions for the pig’s intestinal function, digestion and absorption of TG’s are very efficient.

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However, stress related to weaning and preterm birth can compromise the intestine’s functional capacity for digestion, absorption and metabolism of dietary lipids .

Although lipid digestibility in lactating piglets is high (96%), it decreases after weaning (Cera et al., 1988). This is probably due to gastric lipase, which is responsible for the hydrolysis of 10 to 30% of dietary TGs.

When considering lipid sources for the development of milk formulas for piglets or special diets for premature or low birth weight piglets, the impact of TG structure can be evaluated in terms of lipid digestibility.


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