"Developing Therapies Based on Plant Glycosides of Vitamin D"
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Weanling diet vitamin D is insufficient to correct vitamin D insufficiency

We have studied serum 25-OH vitamin D concentrations in piglets that were given Wean-D+E at processing and control piglets on three farms as of now. As expected Wean-D+E piglets have much higher serum 25-OH vita­min D throughout the suckling period. But shortly after weaning this advantage was gone. And in control piglets (no Wean-D at processing) serum 25-OH vitamin D concentrations remained below 15 ng/ml until they were about 49 days old (4 weeks after weaning). This occurred despite the fact that the diets had a minimum of 4 fold the NRC required level of vitamin D.

Administration of a second 40,000 IU dose of vitamin D (Wean-D) just before weaning was of little discernable benefit to the piglets. By one week after treatment their blood 25-OH vitamin D concentrations were the same as piglets that had not been given the second dose of vitamin D. However, by increasing the dose of vitamin D to 120,000 IU and administering it just before weaning the serum 25-OH vitamin D concentrations remained elevated (above 25 ng/ml) thru day 49, when diet vitamin D appears to be able to supply the vitamin D needed to maintain acceptable levels of 25-OH vitamin D in the blood.

Weaning is accompanied by decreased serum vitamin E concentrations.

If, as in our studies, the sows are given adequate vitamin E supplementation during lactation, sow milk will provide enough vitamin E to maintain serum tocopherol (vitamin E) concentrations well above 2 ng/ml, the level considered the low end of normal. However, piglet serum vitamin E concentrations declined rapidly after weaning, with concentrations falling below 1 ng/ml in many piglets about 1 week after weaning. It appears diet vitamin E is insufficient to maintain serum vitamin E levels the first weeks after weaning. Vitamin E insufficiency is considered one of the factors causing mulberry heart and white muscle disease and inadequate vitamin E is known to compromise immune function. The natural form of vitamin E in plant oils is RRR-alpha-tocopherol. Unfortunately, it is rapidly destroyed by oxidizing agents found in complete feed. This problem was circumvented by development of a synthetic form of vitamin E with an acetate molecule attached to it in an ester bond. This greatly increases the stability of the vitamin E in feed. Studies from several labs, notably Dr. Don Mahan at the Ohio State University, suggest the synthetic tocopheryl acetate form of vitamin E used in most diets is not used as efficiently by the young pig as is the natural RRR-alpha-tocopherol. At weaning it appears the young pig may not have the full complement of enzymes needed to allow it to break the acetate ester linkage and free the vitamin E for absorption. Piglets are fully capable of absorbing the natural vitamin E. By three to four weeks after weaning the young pig’s digestive enzymes appear capable of using synthetic vitamin E just as well as natural vitamin E.

Serum retinol (Vitamin A) levels were within normal ranges in all piglets we examined at all ages. Sow milk and the diet of weaned pigs appear to supply adequate amounts of vitamin A.

The Wean-D + E program

Wean-D +E has 80,000 IU vitamin D3 and 100 IU natural vitamin E (RRR-alpha tocopherol/ml)

A 1 liter bottle will treat 2000 piglets at processing for less than 3.5 cents / pig when purchased by the case.

Suggested usage

At Processing: 0.5 ml Wean-D +E given orally as a drench using a syringe gun with the soft oral doser we supply (see our dosing hints page). Wean-D +E in the first days of life provides 40,000 IU vitamin D to sustain serum 25-OHD concentrations until near weaning time. It also supplies 50 IU RRR-alpha tocopherol, which may help counteract the oxidizing activity of iron injections received at processing. Sow milk provides little iron so an iron dextran injection is vital to prevent anemia. Unfortunately, free iron in the body acts as a strong pro-oxidant, which can create problems and predispose piglets to colibacillosis. Vitamin E supplementation has been shown to reduce these problems.

At Weaning: A total dose of 2.0 ml Wean-D +E given just before or after weaning provides 160,000 IU vitamin D to sustain serum 25-OHD concentration until the piglet is consuming adequate vitamin D in its diet, which occurs at around 6 or 7 weeks of age. It also provides 200 IU natural RRR-alpha tocopherol in a readily absorbable form that helps sustain serum tocopherol levels. Low serum tocopherol concentration has been linked to mulberry heart and white muscle disease and poor immune function. The best results are obtained by administering the 2 ml orally into the back of mouth of piglets using the oral doser. It is rather labor intensive. We find some producers willing to do this if they pick up the piglets to administer vaccines just before weaning time anyway. For most management systems the easiest method is to prepare the nursery pen with the receiving diet and topdress the feed trough with 0.5 ml Wean-D+E / piglet entering the pen, squirting the Wean-D +E along the entire length of the feeding surface of the trough. This is done daily for 4 days to give a total dose of 160,000 IU vitamin D. Piglets find peanut oil palatable and will consume the supplement. Alternatively, topdressing the feed with 0.5 ml per piglet twice each week for the first 2 weeks in the nursery provides more stable blood levels of Vitamins D & E. Unfortunately top dressing the entire 2 mls across the trough on the first day in the nursery gave less reliable results as intake of diet on day 1 of entering the nursery was variable. This costs 14 cents / piglet.