Latest Advances in Sow Nutrition during Early Gestation

Trouw Nutrition Innovation, 3811 MH Amersfoort, The Netherlands
Academic Editors: Claudio Oliviero and Shah Hasan
Animals 202111(6), 1720;
Received: 7 April 2021 / Revised: 1 June 2021 / Accepted: 4 June 2021 / Published: 9 June 2021
Open Access
Scientific Journal
by Pieter Langendijk

by P. Langendijk on 16/09/2021
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The first month of gestation in the pig is characterised by many changes, such as entry of the embryos into the uterus, increased secretion of the pregnancy hormone, progesterone, and the implantation of the embryos into the uterus. Before implantation, embryos have not yet attached to the uterus, and are reliant on nutrients and signals in the uterine fluids, which are controlled by progesterone, among others. High feed intake has a positive effect on progesterone secretion and supports the establishment and development of pregnancy. Very low feed intakes, such as in sows competing for feed in group housing, can be detrimental to embryo survival and even the maintenance of pregnancy. After implantation, specific nutrients that improve the vascularisation of the placenta, such as arginine, can support the capacity of the uterus to support a litter of developing embryos since in this stage competition between embryos starts to play a role.
In the pig, the establishment and maintenance of luteal function in early gestation is crucial to endometrial function, embryo development, and survival. The level of feed intake has a positive effect on formation of luteal tissue and progesterone secretion by the ovaries in the pre-implantation period, which is important for endometrial remodeling and secretion. These effects are independent of luteinising hormone (LH) and probably driven by metabolic cues, such as insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), and seem to support progesterone secretion and delivery to the endometrium, the latter which occurs directly, bypassing the systemic circulation. Even after implantation, a high feed intake seems to improve embryo survival and the maintenance of pregnancy. In this stage, luteal function is LH-dependent, although normal variations in energy intake may not result in pregnancy failure, but may contribute to nutrient supply to the embryos, since in this phase uterine capacity becomes limiting. Feed incidents, however, such as unintended fasting of animals or severe competition for feed, may result in embryo or even pregnancy loss, especially in periods of seasonal infertility. Specific nutrients such as arginine have a role in the vascularisation of the placenta and can improve the uterine capacity in the period after implantation.