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Optimal iron supplementation

Early and excessive iron supplementation can negatively influence health

  • Piglets are born with minimal iron-reserves (40 mg). This low iron concentration is a natural defence mechanism directed at combatting bacterial infections during and after birth.
  • Sow milk provides piglets with about 1 mg Iron/day. With a daily need of about 7 mg there is only sufficient iron for about 4 to 5 days.


An early and abundant iron supplementation may lead to health problems: Pathogenic bacteria like E.coli, Clostridia and Streptococus (causing diarrhoea and arthritis) benefit from high Iron concentrations so encouraging their growth.


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Suboptimal iron supplementation may lead to pale piglets from day 3 onwards (anaemia) which show a high respiratory rate, lower growth rate and increased mortality.

When, how and how much iron?

  • During the first days of life, the daily need of about 7 mg can be covered by the body reserves. Iron supplementation on the day 1. or 2. of life is therefore unnecessary and will distress both sow and piglets.
  • This may lead to a 50 % increase in use of antibiotics (ASG, 2008)
  • When weaning at an age of 21-28 days and providing proper additional feeding, a piglet needs to be administered iron supplementation (I.e. as iron-dextran) from day 3 or later.

The correct injection site:


Figure 2 Image