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Research Will Try to Improve Piglet Survival

Teams will explore practical applications of zinc supplementation

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Pork producers and industry professionals have expressed the need to decrease pre-weaning mortality rates in piglets, and University of Minnesota researchers are uniquely poised to take on the challenge.

In previous research, Minnesota researchers showed that elevated levels of zinc in the sow’s diet during pregnancy positively influences pig performance after birth, this new research project aims to determine the timing and duration of zinc that may influence “fetal imprinting” to optimize health and performance.

The team will explore practical applications of zinc supplementation that adds little to no extra cost to producers yet reduces pre-weaning pig mortality. This project is unique in that it brings the cutting-edge concept of fetal imprinting to an implementation level for commercial sow farms, allowing producers to positively influence lifetime performance of their pigs prior to birth.

All animals in the study will be fitted with the latest in precision technology from PrairiE Systems of Spencer, IA, allowing researchers to closely monitor health, weight, and performance.

“PrairiE Systems is excited to partner with the University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center on this project. We believe our solution, LeeO™, will provide this trial with more accurate readings, along with time and labor savings. We anticipate this research project, being conducted with zinc, will be incredibly beneficial to the industry and we look forward to the results,” reports Joel Stave, Managing Director of PrairiE Systems LLC.

Leading the project is Dr. Lee Johnston, professor of swine nutrition at the U of MN West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC), Morris. Contributing partners include Pedro Urriola, Moon-Suhn Ryu, Kelsey Hammers, and Andres Gomez, all from the University of Minnesota, and Mark Schwartz of Schwartz Farms, Sleepy Eye, MN.

The study will be conducted on a commercial, farrow-to-wean sow farm owned by Schwartz Farms, Inc. Results of the study will be available on the WCROC website at

Funding for this project is provided by the Pork Checkoff through the Minnesota Pork Board.

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