Murdoch link with industry to tackle iron deficiency in pigs

November 1, 2017

Healthy piglets: Doctor of Veterinary Medicine student Nicole McSeveney is working to prevent iron deficiency in piglets

A veterinary science student at Murdoch University is collaborating with industry to tackle iron deficiency in pigs.

Nicole McSeveney, from the School of Veterinary and Life Sciences, is studying the effectiveness of current iron supplementation protocols on commercial Western Australian farms in preventing iron deficiency in piglets.

In commercial swine production, piglets are at risk of developing iron deficiency anaemia in their first few weeks of life due to low levels of iron reserves at birth, combined with rapid growth and an iron deficient milk diet from the sow.

“To help keep piglets healthy, they are usually given an iron supplement via intramuscular injection at 2 to 3 days of age,” Ms McSeveny said.

“The dose and timing of the iron supplement can vary across production systems. However, a review of the current scientific literature has highlighted that the usual recommended dose of 200mg iron dextran may not be sufficient to reduce the risk of iron deficiency anaemia for pigs housed indoors.”

Preventing iron deficiency is an important goal for producers because of potential economic losses.

Iron deficiency anaemia can lead to reduced growth, cognitive impairment and reduced antibody synthesis making pigs more susceptible to diarrhoea and other diseases throughout their life.

Ms McSeveney is completing her research as part of Murdoch’s new Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and is being supervised at Portec Veterinary Services.

Her project design involves measuring haemoglobin levels – a reliable measure of iron status – in selected pigs from an indoor production system at different life stages and comparing them to haemoglobin levels in pigs from an outdoor production system where it is thought pigs receive adequate iron supplement from the soil.

She communicated her research proposal to veterinarians and industry representatives at the 2017 Australian Pig Vet Conference recently. This sparked a positive response and invitation for her to return and present the results at the 2018 national conference.

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