The condition known as piglet anaemia is caused by a deficiency of iron. Animals on grazing are able to get adequate iron from the soil and pasture. When sows and piglets are exclusively housed and not given iron supplementation this condition can arise.
Symptoms appear within 2-4 weeks of birth. The piglet loses its appetite and becomes anorexic, showing slow or nil growth. In the later stages the skin becomes wrinkled, with oedema of the neck, head and shoulders.
On post mortem, the heart is dilated, there is fluid in the pericardium and lungs. All tissues are anaemic.
Piglets are the only young animals to suffer from this condition. The reasons for this are
1. Piglets grow extremely fast. They will be 5 times their birth weight at 3 weeks and 10 times their birth weight at 8 weeks. They need large amounts of iron to sustain this rapid growth.
2. All milk is low in iron, and although sows’ milk has higher levels of iron than the cow or ewe, it is still too low to supply requirements.
3. Piglets, unlike calves and lambs, do not have high iron reserves in their bodies when they are born.
4. Placental transfer of iron from the sow to unborn piglets is very poor, even if the sow has had a high intake of iron in her pregnancy.
Treatment and Control
Most commonly – injection with 100 mg iron within 3 days of birth and again 2 weeks later. ( FERDEX 20%)
• This treatment will also relieve deficiency symptoms if caught early enough and recovery is rapid.
• Old fashioned remedies which are said to be effective are to add some soil to the corner of the sty for the piglets to eat and smearing the sows teats with a paste containing iron.