"Developing Therapies Based on Plant Glycosides of Vitamin D"
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Wean-D+E contains 40,000 IU vitamin D3 plus 50 IU vitamin E in a palatable mix to be given orally to piglets in the first week of life to address the problem of vitamin D insufficiency in weanling pigs

Why Wean-D+E?

Commercial production units do not allow the neonatal pig access to sunshine and ultraviolet B irradiation. The pig in the wild has a tremendous ability to produce vitamin D in their skin. But the ultraviolet B rays that allow the piglet to make vitamin D cannot penetrate glass. Unfortunately the sow counted on this happening and of all species piglets are born with the lowest reserves of vitamin D and sow milk has a very low vitamin D content. The result is vitamin D insufficiency in most piglets by the time they are 15-20 days of age. By the time they are weaned many piglets will have early signs of the bone disease known as rickets. In addition, vitamin D insuficiency has been linked to poor immunity as well. Fortunately after they are on full feed for 3-4 weeks their vitamin D status becomes relatively normal. By giving the piglet a large dose of vitamin D at processing (40,000 IU), we can keep blood levels above the level where rickets might start to occur until they are weaned. We recommend a second dose at weaning by placing 0.5 ml of Wean D+E for each piglet in the nursery pen along the top of the feed trough for their first 4 days in the nursery.

Vitamin E insufficiency may also occur in the newly weaned pig, compromising immune function and affecting heart and skeletal muscle growth (mulberry heart disease; white muscle disease). Research suggests this occurs because piglets do not utilize tocopheryl acetate (the stable synthetic form of vitamin E used in most diets) as well as tocopherol (the Natural Vitamin E found in plants, which unfortunately is unstable in stored feed). Top-dressing the diet with 0.5 ml/pig squirted across the length of the trough for the first 4 days when pigs enter nursery pens provides 160,000 IU vitamin D and 200 IU Natural Vitamin E to maintain tissue vitamin levels until the piglets are eating and digesting diets well. Administered at processing, Vitamin E also counteracts some of the negative effects associated with iron injection of pigs. A 0.5 ml dose of Wean-D+E provides 40,000 IU Vitamin D & 50 IU Natural Vitamin E. Wean-D+E costs $72/Liter (3.6 cents/pig at processing; 14.4 cents/pig at weaning), Case price drops to $69/ Liter.


We ship free in the USA and include a soft oral doser made for us by Slap-Shot. This helps the piglets and it provides work for some folks with special challenges (see GlycoMyr.com for more on SouthWest Nebraska Adult Training Service). We hope you find Wean-D+E useful.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are piglets often vitamin D insufficient?

Vitamin D is normally produced in skin exposed to the ultraviolet-B (UV-B) rays of the summer sun. In winter, the angle of the sun in the sky is too low to allow adequate UV-B to reach the skin of animals. Since most piglets today are raised in climate controlled housing and born year-round, direct access to sunshine is often limited, even in the summer. Fortunately, vitamin D can be added to diets to meet the animals' need for vitamin D, if they are consuming the diet.

Piglets are generally left with the sow for the first 21 days of life and the sow's milk provides most if not all the nutrients the piglet will receive. This generally assures the piglet will receive most of the nutrients needed for maximal growth and health. Two notable exceptions to this are iron and vitamin D. Sow milk supplies very little of these important nutrients. Since sow milk lacks iron and piglets in climate controlled housing do not root around in soil, it is necessary to administer iron early in life to prevent anemia. Similarly many piglets in confinement housing exhibit symptoms of vitamin D insufficiency, such as bone microfractures and rickets, by the time they are weaned. A dose of vitamin D removes this worry.

Why is vitamin D needed?

Vitamin D, produced in the skin or supplied in the diet is absorbed into the blood and converted in the liver to 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D). The 25(OH)D is then further metabolized by the kidney to 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (1,25-(OH)2D). This compound is actually a hormone that acts on intestinal cells to enhance calcium and phosphorus absorption. Without vitamin D, dietary calcium and phosphorus are only poorly utilized. The calcium and phosphorus are needed for bone formation. We now also know from human, bovine and mouse studies that immune cells and muscle cells also require vitamin D for optimal function.

How can we assess vitamin D status of piglets?

The major form of vitamin D circulating in the blood is 25(OH)D. Measuring this in blood gives the best indication of vitamin D status of the animal.

We have long known that of all the species tested, piglets are born with the lowest circulating levels of 25(OH)D. Placental transfer of vitamin D from the mother to the piglet is poor. Prior to suckling colostrum piglet serum 25(OH)D concentration is generally below 5 ng/ml. Colostrum does have a small amount of vitamin D in it so the piglet getting a good dose of colostrum will get some improvement in vitamin D status. At 10 days of age the piglet raised indoors typically has a serum 25-(OH)D concentration around 10 ng/ml which declines to less than 8 ng/ml by 21 days of age. After weaning serum 25(OH)D slowly increases as the piglet consumes starter diet containing vitamin D. However, even though post-weaning diets often contain 10 fold NRC requirement levels of vitamin D, piglet serum 25(OH)D concentration at 33 days of age remains below 15 ng / ml. Even at 77 days of age serum 25(OH)D remains below 20 ng/ml.

What is the adequate level of 25(OH)D in the plasma?

Animals with clinical rickets will generally have less than 5 ng 25(OH)D /ml serum.

Animals maintaining more than 15 ng 25(OH)D /ml serum generally will not exhibit any lesions (clinical or sub-clinical) of rickets.

Work in humans, mice, and cattle suggests optimal bone and muscle development and immune function are observed when serum 25(OH)D concentrations are maintained above 30 ng/ml. Right now we have no data on the optimal level for these functions in pigs. It may be similar to these other species.

Piglets raised by sows housed outside with exposure to the summer sun have been found to have serum 25(OH)D concentrations above 50 ng/ml at 21 days of age!! This is similar to levels found in humans and other animals exposed to the sun. Perhaps these are the levels that should be considered optimal??

Can I feed the sow or treat her with extra vitamin D to improve the vitamin D status of the piglet?

Placental transfer of vitamin D can be enhanced somewhat by administering a massive dose of vitamin D (5 million IU intramuscularly!)to the sow prior to farrowing. Feeding high amounts of vitamin D (or possibly feeding 25-hydroxyvitamin D) daily for the days prior to farrowing and during lactation can increase placental transfer and improve colctrum and perhaps milk vitamin D content. Piglets from sows treated in this way can have as much as 11-14 ng 25(OH)D / ml serum at birth. Also by giving the sow a massive dose of vitamin D prior to farrowing we can also boost the colostrum and milk vitamin D content slightly. These piglets can have serum 25(OH)D concentrations around 15 ng/ml at 10 days of age. This is good , but we think treating the piglet is a more sure way to address the problem.

Can I treat the piglet and boost its vitamin D status?

We have found that a single oral bolus dose of 40,000 IU vitamin D3 given at normal processing (1-3 days of age) can allow pigs to reach weaning age (21 days) with serum 25(OH)D concentrations that remain above 20 ng/ml. We have found that within a couple of days of the bolus dose, serum 25(OH)D concentration peaks at 70-100 ng/ml and at day 10 of life remains above 40 ng/ml (similar to outdoor pigs!). It declines from that point til weaning where the treated pigs sustain levels above 20 ng/ml. In contrast, littermates that do not receive the bolus dose of vitamin D have less than 10 ng 25(OH)D / ml serum throughout the entire suckling period. By day 30 of life untreated piglets slowly begin to improve their vitamin D status as they begin to consume starter with vitamin D in it. They can have serum 25(OH)D increasing to 10-12 ng/ml, but remain below levels believed necessary for avoidance of rickets. Piglets treated with 40,000 IU at processing will continue to have higher serum 25(OH)D averaging around 17-19 ng/ml. These data suggest that it may also be necessary to boost vitamin D content of early weaning diets for pigs or consider giving another bolus dose of vitamin D at weaning! We suggest putting 0.5 ml Wean D+E squirted onto the feed trough for every piglet in the nursery pen for the first 4 days in the nursery. This may also be a time when placement of extra vitamin D into the drinking water would help the weaned pig's vitamin D status.

It should also be possible to inject vitamin D into the piglet and get similar results. However, this involves another injection. One may want to use caution using products that also contain vitamin A. Vitamin A actions can counteract some effects of vitamin D and in calves vitamin A injection was associated with premature closure of physes of the long bones of the hind leg resulting in "hyena" disease in calves.