Effects of Dietary Iron Levels on Growth Performance, Hematological Status, Liver Mineral Concentration, Fecal Microflora, and Diarrhea Incidence in Weanling Pigs

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An experiment was conducted in weanling pigs (Landrace × Yorkshire × Duroc) to evaluate the effects of dietary iron levels on growth performance, hematological status, liver mineral concentration, fecal microflora, and diarrhea incidence. One hundred and forty-four piglets (initial BW 5.96 ± 0.93kg) were randomly allotted to one of the four dietary treatments on the basis of their body weights. The basal diets for each phase (phase 1: days0 to 14; phase 2: days15 to 28) were formulated to contain minimal Fe and then supplemented with gradient levels of Fe (0, 50, 100, and 250mg/kg) from ferrous sulfate. Feces were collected on days14 and 28 and used for the analysis of microbial count and trace minerals. Eight piglets from each treatment (two piglets per pen) were bled at 0, 7, 14, 21, and 28days to determine their hematological and plasma Fe status. In addition, two piglets from each pen (eight piglets per treatment) were killed at days14 and 28 to determine liver mineral concentrations. Pigs fed supplemental 250ppm Fe showed lowest overall average daily gain (linear, p = 0.036). Diarrhea incidence was linearly increased (p < 0.001) with supplemental Fe level. On days14, coliform population in normal feces was increased (p = 0.036) linearly with supplemental Fe level, and there were higher (p = 0.043) coliform population and lower (p < 0.001) Bifidobacterium spp. in the diarrhea feces. Supplemental Fe linearly (p < 0.05) improved the total red blood cells, hemoglobin, plasma, and liver (p = 0.109) Fe status of pigs and also increased (linear and quadratic, p < 0.001) the fecal excretion of Fe on days14 and 28. It is concluded that increasing the dietary iron levels in piglets improved their hematological status and liver Fe content; however, higher dietary Fe levels might also be associated with the increased diarrhea incidence.

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