Behavior of suckling pigs supplemented with an encapsulated iron oral formula

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Parental iron supplementation in neonatal piglets is a routine management to solve anemia but may cause welfare problems. The aim of this study was to assess behavior responses generated after oral or parenteral iron supplementation. Parenteral supplementation consisted of 200 mg of iron dextran intramuscular. The novel oral iron supplement was a combination of encapsulated nonheme/heme iron (252 mg of total iron) delivered orally. Two litters formed by 11, 2-day-old piglets were assigned to each treatment. The litters were video recorded for 6 hours, 3 before and 3 after iron supplementation. Scan sampling every 3 minutes was used to register the occurrence of 7 behaviors. The highest overall percentage of time was allocated to resting, 46.5% (167.4 minutes) for the parenteral group and 42.4% (152.6 minutes) for the oral group; and suckling 24.6% (88.6 minutes) for the parenteral group and 27.8% (100.1 minutes) for the oral group. Resting time was higher after 1 hour of iron supplementation in the parenteral group 51.9% (31.1 minutes) vs. 33.8% (19.7 minutes). In conclusion, the oral iron supplementation resulted in a higher behavioral disruption in neonatal pigs, probably associated to increased handling time and aversive flavor of the supplement.

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