The role of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratios in sow diets on reproduction, piglet performance, fatty acid profiles, lactational fat mobilization and piglet health post-weaning
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A series of experiments was conducted to test the overall hypothesis that reducing the omega-6 (n-6) to omega-3 (n-3) fatty acid (FA) ratio in sow diets would improve sow reproductive performance (characterized by increases in numbers and body weight of piglets born alive and weaned) and would lessen the inflammatory responses of their offspring post weaning. Diets were wheat/barley based and consisted of a control (tallow based, similar to a standard production diet), 3 diets with plant oil based n-6:n-3 ratios (9:1P, 5:1P, and 1:1P) and a 5:1 fish oil diet (5:1F). The control diet had a ratio of 8:1, but contained approximately half the polyunsaturated FA content of the other diets. Sows were randomly assigned to a treatment diet on d 80 of gestation, and remained on that treatment for three consecutive reproductive cycles (gestation/lactation 1 = P1, gestation/lactation 2 = P2, gestation/lactation 3 = P3). Experiment 1 was designed to test the hypothesis that reducing the n-6:n-3 FA ratio in sow diets would increase circulating concentrations of n-3 FA’s in sows and in their offspring, and the passive immune status of piglets would be improved. Performance data was collected throughout P1 and P2 on 150 sows (n = 30/diet). Sow and piglet serum, colostrum and milk were analyzed for FA profiles, and colostrum and piglet serum were analyzed for immunoglobulin (Ig) A and IgG. In P1, birth weights were unaffected by diet (P > 0.05). Average piglet weaning weights (P = 0.02) and ADG (P = 0.01) however, were highest for piglets born to sows consuming the 9:1P and 5:1P diets. During P2, 5:1F sows consumed 10% less feed (P = 0.04), their piglets had reduced birth weights (P = 0.05), and average weaning weight was reduced by 0.8 kg (P = 0.04) relative to control or 5:1P sows. Colostral and piglet plasma IgA and IgG were unaffected by diet (P > 0.05). Colostrum FA profile patterns were similar to that of the sow diets. Serum n-3 FA’s were greatest in sows (P < 0.01) and piglets (P < 0.01) consuming 1:1P or 5:1F diets. Serum α-linolenic acid (ALA) was highest in the 1:1P sows and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) were highest in the 5:1F sows. In piglet serum obtained prior to suckling, ALA and DHA did not differ among treatments (P > 0.05) but EPA was 2.5 times greater in the 1:1P group and 4 times greater in the fish group (P < 0.01) compared to those from the control diet. In post-suckle samples, ALA was highest in serum from 1:1P diet piglets (P < 0.01), and EPA and DHA were highest in piglet serum from the 5:1F sows (P < 0.01). Omega-3 FA’s can perturb lipid metabolism, specifically increasing the lipolytic activity of adipose tissue and thus the second experiment tested the hypothesis that high producing sows, consuming reduced n-6:n-3 ratios would have increased body fat mobilization. Twenty sows per diet, farrowing ≥ 11 piglets and nursing ≥ 10 piglets during P3, were used. Performance data on sows and piglets (such as weights, numbers, backfat changes) was collected throughout lactation and milk samples obtained on d 4 and d 16 of lactation. Jugular catheters were inserted into 8 sows from each of the 9:1P and 1:1P groups on d 5 of lactation and sows were challenged with a single injection of epinephrine followed by serial blood collections. Feed intake was highest for sows consuming the control (8.4 kg/d) and 5:1P (8.2 kg/d) diets and lowest for the sows fed the 1:1P (7.4 kg/d) and 5:1F (7.7 kg/d) diets (P = 0.05). Altering the n-6:n-3 FA ratio did not affect sow BW, piglet ADG, milk DM and N content or the total output of milk (P > 0.2). Sows consuming the 1:1P diet had greater backfat thickness (P < 0.05) and numerically higher plasma NEFA at baseline compared with the 9:1P sows (240 vs 93 uM; P = 0.16). When given epinephrine, 9:1P fed sows tended to have lower net incremental area under the curve (niAUC) glucose (P = 0.08) and numerically higher niAUC NEFA (P = 0.17) and glycerol (P = 0.15). A third experiment was conducted to test the hypothesis that piglets raised by sows consuming reduced n-6:n-3 ratios would have reduced inflammatory responses post-weaning. Piglets (n = 20/diet) raised by sows consuming the treatment diets described above for 2 gestation/lactation cycles (P2) were selected at weaning. Within diet group, pigs were randomized to either a challenge control group (saline injected) or to a lipopolysaccharide (LPS) injected group (n=10/challenge•diet-1). Piglets were fed a common starter diet for 6 days followed by saline or LPS injections on d 7. Rectal temperatures were recorded for 24 hrs and blood samples were collected at 0, 2, 6 and 12 hrs post injection for pro-inflammatory cytokine and blood urea nitrogen (BUN) analysis. Injecting LPS caused decreased feed intake and reduced ADG (P < 0.01), and increased temperature and cytokine production (P < 0.05). Piglets raised by sows consuming the 1:1P diet had elevated temperatures (P = 0.01; diet x challenge P > 0.05). Overall, circulating plasma ALA and EPA were increased in sows and piglets when sows were fed a 1:1 plant based ratio compared to the control or high n-6:n-3 ratio groups. Sows fed a ratio of 1:1 mobilized more body fat relative to those consuming the 9:1 ratio; there were no treatment effects on piglet growth. Reducing maternal n-6:n-3 FA ratios below 5:1 increased piglet body temperature prior to and during an LPS induced inflammatory challenge,. Reducing the sow dietary n-6:n-3 FA ratio below 5:1 may have detrimental effects on piglets due to over-stimulation of inflammatory responses.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
DepartmentAnimal and Poultry Science
SupervisorBeaulieu, Angela D.
CommitteeDrew, Murray D.; Thacker, Philip A.; Harding, John C.
Copyright DateDecember 2012
polyunsaturated fatty acid