Research Says Iron Deficiency Anemia Costs Pig Industry Millions

( National Pork Board and the Pork Checkoff )

A new study says iron deficiency anemia in the U.S. swine herd is costing the U.S. pork industry anywhere from $46 million to $335 million, despite current iron injection practices.

The research, conducted by Pharmacosmos and a U.S. swine integrator using Uniferon® 200 iron supplements, examined how to maximize the hemoglobin status of baby pigs at weaning. 

During the study, blood hemoglobin (Hb) was measured at the time of weaning in 235 healthy baby pigs and classified as follows: greater than 110 g/L (optimal), 90-110 g/L (sub-clinical) and less than 90 g/L (deficient). 

Pigs were weighed individually at weaning and again at 131 days post-weaning. Using this data, researchers created a regression model to predict the outcome of average daily gain using Hb status, sex and weaning weight as covariates. 

This model then helped predict the economic return associated with improvement in a herd’s Hb status. The model examined data from giving a single 200-mg dose of iron as a baseline and compared that against pigs administered a second 200-mg dose of iron by day 12 of the baby pig’s life. 

Data showed that a single 200 mg dose of injectable iron, a common dose used today, was not sufficient in preventing full-scale and sub-clinical iron deficiency anemia in baby pigs. 
“We have found that increasing the dose to 400 mg, given in two 200 mg injections, increases baby pigs with optimal hemoglobin at weaning from 21% to 70%,” said Jerry Purvis, Director of Feed Operations at Purvis Farms, N.C. “Increased hemoglobin means larger pigs and a bigger return on investment for the swine industry.”

The model, developed by Chris Olsen, DVM, technical services manager at Pharmacosmos, shows by maximizing the hemoglobin status of baby pigs at weaning, the return on investment (ROI) increases $2.77 per head, even after the cost of an additional 200 mg dose of iron at $0.25 a head (cost of estimated product plus labor of giving the second injection). According to a company release, when multiplied by the total number of hogs slaughtered in the U.S. annually, more than 121.3 million, there was a total ROI of more than $300 million annually. 

“The results of an additional 200 mg dose of iron at 12 days of age showed an increase of five pounds per head,” Olsen says. “The results are significant and there is clear benefit to increasing the dose given to each baby pig from one 200 mg dose to two 200 mg doses.” 

This research was presented during the poster session at the 2019 American Association of Swine Veterinarians meeting.


More from Farm Journal's PORK:

Lonely Roads: Trucker Shortage Takes a Toll on Supply Chain

Final Four Announced for America’s Pig Farmer of the Year

Back to the Basics: Air, Water, Feed