Vitamin supplementation for sows to maintain strong structure and enable maximum reproductive capabilities is more important today than ever before. Due to changes in facilities, fewer ration ingredients and increased production capabilities, vitamins must be supplied to sows through the ration.
"On average, sows don't have enough litters to reach their break-even point financially until the third parity, so we have a big opportunity for increasing profitability in the industry," says Jon Bergstrom, senior technical support manager for DSM Nutritional Products. Citing research that shows the average breeding sow achieves only 2.5 litters in her lifetime with nearly 30 percent of replacements gilts failing to produce a single litter.
Vitamins play an integral role in creating and maintaining bone, muscle, internal organs, blood, and other tissues and fluids of the body; however, the optimum levels of essential vitamins needed for growth and performance are not often found in commercial swine rations. The National Swine Nutrition Guide recommends adding 11 vitamins to sow diets, which are divided into two groups: fat soluble (vitamins A, D, E and K) and water soluble (riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, choline, biotin, vitamin B12, and folic acid).
Bergstrom says that it is a combination of these essential vitamins that helps sows perform to their full potential. In particular, Vitamin D3 can help build and maintain strong skeletons which prevent lameness and promote reproductive capabilities; Vitamin E is essential for an effective immune system; and Vitamin A can help sows return to estrus and produce healthier piglets.
"In the past, vitamin requirements have been primarily based on studies designed to determine levels which would prevent deficiencies," he says. "In order to have optimum production, you need to provide vitamins at levels far above what's required merely to prevent nutritional deficiencies and diseases."
Several industry groups have updated their recommendations for vitamin feeding levels to help sows reach their full potential.
"We need to feed vitamins that are high-quality and that maintain their stability, so the vitamins haven't deteriorated and provide the intended levels of supplementation when the animal consumes the feed," he says. "Talk with your nutritionist to determine which vitamins best fit your operation. Feeding the vitamins at the optimum levels will enable sows to more closely achieve their genetic potential for lifetime reproductive performance and productivity."
 "Vitamins." North Carolina State University. http://www.ncsu.edu/project/swine_extension/nutrition/nutritionguide/vitamins/vitamins.htm. 14 August 2013.
 "Trace minerals and vitamins for swine diets." National Swine Nutrition Guide. http://www.usporkcenter.org/FileLibrary/External/USPCE/NSNG/NSNG-Vitamins%20and%20Trace%20Minerals%281%29.pdf. 14 August 2013.