Research project New iron sources for organic piglets

In progress BIGIJZER

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Sam Millet

Sam Millet

Expert in pig feed and zootechnology


Framing introduction

How can piglets' iron requirements be met naturally and organically, without an iron injection? This research question arises from a potentially stricter approach to organic certification. If in the future the certification organizations consider the provision of an iron injection as a medical treatment, which is already the case in countries such as France, this will be problematic for organic pig farmers. After all, they are only allowed to administer 1 medical treatment per animal per year. Thus the demand to look for alternative sources of iron arose directly from the sector organizations. With this project we hope to provide organic pig farmers with tools for an alternative strategy whereby they can still provide their piglets with their iron requirements in a natural and organic manner without iron injection. We want to support them in this quest, and also offer a substantiated answer to control organizations as to whether or not alternatives exist.

Research approach

Research partner INAGRO is conducting a literature review looking for iron-rich materials that are also local, inexpensive and available to organic pig farmers. In addition, these materials must also meet the standards of organic legislation, be sufficiently absorbed by the piglets and be food safe. We are testing the most promising materials in practical trials at ILVO's test facility: the farrowing pen of the Pig Campus. We chart the iron status and associated blood values of the piglets. In addition, the general health status of the piglets is monitored. The production results are also measured. This is done through weight monitoring and calculation of daily growth. Four treatment groups are provided, comparing 2 biological alternatives with 2 references, namely the iron injection as well as an oral reference.


Piglets are born anemic by default, meaning they depend on dietary sources to maintain their iron stores and hemoglobin levels. During the suckling period the piglet relies entirely on its mother's milk. However, sow's milk contains very little iron and the administration of an additional iron injection at 3 to 5 days of age has therefore been a routine treatment in the farrowing pen for many years. Within organic pig farming, iron injection is currently applied nearly routinely. However, it is disputed whether this operation is acceptable within organic farming.


Vlaamse Overheid - L&V