1,3-Butanediol (BD) is a ketogenic substance that can improve piglet growth and survival and potentially increase performance in gilt progeny when provided as a dietary supplement during late gestation. Gilts (n = 77; parity 1) and sows (n = 74; parities 2 and 3) were fed either a standard commercial gestation diet or a diet supplemented with 4% BD from day 90 of gestation until farrowing. Dams fed with diets supplemented with BD had higher plasma beta-hydroxybutyrate (p = 0.01) and lower non-esterified fatty acid concentrations (p < 0.001). The percentage of progeny that were light-for-age (<1.1 kg) at birth was decreased by BD (18.2 vs. 13.5%, p < 0.006), particularly in gilts (24.0 vs. 18.3%, p < 0.034). Individual birth weights and litter weights birth weights tended to be increased by the BD diet (p = 0.085 and 0.078; respectively) although these effects were not maintained to weaning. Pre-weaning mortality was greater in gilt than in sow progeny and was not altered by dietary BD. Feeding BD in late gestation can improve birth weight, but further work is needed to see if these effects are carried through subsequent stages of growth, particularly in gilt progeny.
Keywords: birthweight; gilt progeny; ketones; parity; pre-weaning mortality.