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Dietary Omega-6 to Omega-3 Ratio Influences Reproductive Performance of the Sow
Laura Eastwood - Prairie Swine Centre

Farmscape for December 5, 2011   (Episode 4024)

Research conducted by the Prairie Swine Centre indicates the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the diet is of greater significance in influencing the reproductive performance of the sow than the actual amounts of the compounds.

A typical corn based lactation sow ration contains a 20 or 25 to 1 omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio.

As part of a series of studies, researchers with Prairie Swine Centre compared the performance of sows fed diets containing a 10 to 1, a 5 to 1 and a 1 to 1 omega-6 to omega-3 ratio and a 5 to 1 fish-oil-based diet over three reproductive cycles.

Laura Eastwood, a Ph.D. Student with the University of Saskatchewan, explains in many studies a small amount of omega-3 has been included into the diet but the theory is that because the pathways to form hormones in the body are shared the omega-3 fatty acids are being washed out by the omega-6 fatty acids.

Clip-Laura Eastwood-Prairie Swine Centre:
Omega-6 fatty acids are believed to be precursors for pro-inflammatory molecules in the body whereas the omega-3 fatty acids are the opposite.

They are considered to be anti-inflammatory.

On top of that there's significant evidence in the literature that shows feeding omega-3 fatty acids can improve piglet birth rates, piglet weights, sow reproductive performance.

However there's a lot of studies that say the exact opposite so our thoughts are that the actual ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid may be more important than just including a small amount of omega-3 into our high omega-6 diets.

Eastwood says feed intake was highest at a 5 to 1 ratio but as the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio dropped too low or switched to a fish-based source, the sows consumed less feed which resulted in slower growth of the piglets.

She says the next step is to identify the optimum ratio to make sure producers are able to wean a larger healthier pig without negatively impacting the sow.

For Farmscape.Ca, I'm Bruce Cochrane.

       *Farmscape is a presentation of Sask Pork and Manitoba Pork Council

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