longer the duration of farrowing. Stillbirth increased signifi- cantly when the time between the last meal and the onset of farrowing exceeded six hours. Most farms feed sows a lactation diet and restrict feed distri- bution around farrowing to prevent udder oedema and con- stipation and to ensure a high intake post farrowing. In prac- tice, farrowing sows are given a feed to produce milk, not to help the birth process. Is there a way to better support the farrowing sow though specific sow nutrition?

Heavy physical exercise Cargill researchers were inspired by technologies used in hu- man sports nutrition, in particular those used to help ath- letes prepare for heavy physical exercise such as a marathon. This resulted in a new nutritional concept for sow feed, called LivaPig. This concept is formulated to increase the lev- el of nitric oxide (NO) in sow blood, which in turn can sup- port an increased number and diameter of blood vessels. As for athletes, ensuring a larger blood flow reduces muscle acidification, in turn supporting endurance in physical effort. More blood flow also means carrying more oxygen and nutrients in utero to the piglets during farrowing. The ad- vantage of the technology is that NO formation in blood works even at low oxygen pressure and is enhanced at a low- er pH. Those conditions are typical during farrowing, when oxygen levels in tissue are low and acidification of muscles occurs. A research trial carried out in the Netherlands found that sows supplemented with this feed concept from seven days

before farrowing onwards had reduced piglet losses during lactation when compared to the control group. This could be explained by heavier birth weights, larger placental sizes, higher vitality scores and improved oxygen levels in the um- bilical cord blood right after birth (Figures 3A and 3B).

Further evaluation by pig producers

The concept was evaluated further in practice by pig produc- ers. In 2018 and 2019, more than 13 trials were carried out on commercial farms across Europe, using a total of 4,500 sows with a productivity level of up to 19 piglets born per litter. On average, sows supplemented with this feed concept re-

Figure 2 - The relationship between nitric oxide, placental and farrowing characteristics, lower stillbirth and early survival.

Early survival

Lower Stillbirth

Improved supply of oxygen

Livapig Nitric oxide

Increased endurance

Duration of farrowing


Power of contractions

Placenta quality

Vascularization Size

Widening of blood vessels

Umbilical blood flow

Placental blood flow

It is important to feed highly pro- ductive sows not only to produce milk, but also to farrow.

Piglet vitality

Oxygen and nutrient supply

▶PIG PROGRESS | Volume 36, No. 4, 2020


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