Piglets are especially susceptible to iron deficiency for several reasons:

  • Pigs are born with low iron reserves (about 50 mg)1
  • A sow's milk is low in iron. It contributes only 1 mg per day, but a piglet needs approximately 7 - 16 mg per day (depending on the rate of weight gain) for proper growth and health1
  • Modern pig breeding practices keep sows and piglets indoors in concrete pens that offer no chance for the animals to acquire iron from soil2
  • Piglets have an extremely high growth rate compared to other mammals. In fact, a piglet born at 1.5 kg will increase its weight tenfold in its first 60 days of life. And this growth requires a great deal of iron

When a piglet does not receive enough iron, its body does not produce enough haemoglobin. This leads to slowed growth, inadequate weight gain and anaemia. Early symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia include paleness and failure to thrive. But in more severe cases, clinical symptoms appear: stunted growth, shortness of breath, and chronic diarrhea brought on by a compromised immune system. If left untreated, anaemia will ultimately lead to death. 

Iron deficiency anaemia in piglets is prevented with an injection of iron shortly after birth. And the right iron supplement can make a big difference. Read more here.

Iron deficiency in humans

1 NRC (National Research Council) (1998): Nutrient Requirements of Swine, 10th revised ed. Washington D.C.: National Academy Press.
2 Leman et al. (1992): Diseases of Swine. 7th ed. Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, USA.


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