"Developing Therapies Based on Plant Glycosides of Vitamin D"
Wean-D+E Logo

Wean-D+E contains 40,000 IU vitamin D3 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

As of September 1, 2012, we moved to a more concentrated formula and introduced “Wean-D+E”.

Why a new formula?

I noticed some newborn piglets were not swallowing the entire 1 ml dose. We did a trial comparing delivery of 40,000 IU Vitamin D in 1.0, 0.5 and 0.25 ml volumes. The 0.5 ml dose averaged the highest blood 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and had the least variability. Our “New” Wean-D formula provides 40,000 IU vitamin D in a 0.5 ml dose.

Our studies have also determined, despite Wean-D at processing, many piglets develop low serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels about 1 week after weaning- even when the nursery diet contained 5 fold the NRC required level of vitamin D! Top-dressing the diet with 1 ml Wean-D (80,000 IU Vitamin D) /pig squirted the length of the trough when pigs enter nursery pens and again 1 week later eliminates this problem.

Why Wean-D+E?

Vitamin E insufficiency may also occur in the newly weaned pig, compromising immune function and affecting heart muscle growth (mulberry heart 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 (Natural Vitamin E found in plants-unstable in stored feed). Top-dressing the diet with 1 ml/pig squirted across the length of the trough when pigs enter nursery pens and again 1 week later 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’ll offer Wean-D and Wean-D+E in 250 ml and 120 ml bottles to fit the syringe guns some people prefer. 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 & 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.

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 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. 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.

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 50 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. 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! 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.