Animal Husbandry and Nutrition Florida Agricultural
Mimeograph Series No. 60-6 Experiment Station
INJECTABLE IRON FOR THE PREVENTION
OF BABY PIG ANEMIA I/
H. D. Wallace, R. Bo. Christmas and G. E. Combs, Jr. 2/
Iron deficiency anemia in suckling pigs is an.old and well known
problem to most swine producers. Sow's milk is very low in iron and
pigs are born with limited body stores of iron which usually last no
longer than 2 5 weeks after birth. ..At the end of this period symptoms
of anemia are likely to appear unless the pigs have been provided with
supplementary iron. Symptoms of anemia are paleness of gums, eyelids,
lips and ears; listlessness; labored breathing and poor gains. Blood
analysis reveals low hemoglobin values. Autopsy:examination of the:
viscera show them to be extremely pale. Death claims many anemic pigs;
some recover, but few are profit makers after having been subjected
to anemia.. ...
In the past, common preventative measures have included drenching
with iron solutions, administration of iron tablets, swabbing sow's
udder with iron containing mixtures and placing soil in the pens for
the young pigs to root in. These measures are inexpensive but are
time consuming and troublesome. Neither do they always assure adequate
protection for all pigs.
Modern methods of raising pigs in concrete confinement have inten-
sified the anemia problem. A high percentage of pigs produced today
no longer have access to soil. This fact and the continued selection
for faster growing pigs which require greater quantities of iron have
combined to make this malady more serious for many of our swine raisers.
The work reported here was undertaken to study the.effectiveness
of injectable iron for the prevention of anemia in baby pigs.
f/ Two compounds were tested in this study. An experimental iron-BI2
compound (Rubrafer) with a potency of 100 mg. elemental iron and
45 1rr. vitamin 812 per 0.84 cc. supplied by the Squibb Institute
for NMd'.ical Research, New Brunswick, New Jersey was tested in each
of the four trials. A commercial product (Armidexan) with a potency
of 50 mg. elemental iron per I cc. supplied by Armour and Co.,
Chicago, Illinois, was tested in Trial IV.
2/ Wallace and Combs, Associate and Assistant Animal Husbandmen;
Christmas, Research Assistant, Florida Agricultural Experiment
Station. The assistance of Mr. W. E. Collins and L. S. Taylor, ,-
Swine Herdsmen, is gratefully acknowledged. ,
The study consisted of four separate trials and Involved a total
of 47 litters of pigs. The pigs were farrowed in a central farrowing
house and remained on concrete for at least three weeks in all trials.
Initial weights and blood hemoglobin values were obtained on all pigs
within a range of six to fifteen hours after birth. Pigs were allotted
within litters to the various treatment groups according to initial
weight, hemoglobin and general thriftiness, Initial iron Injections
were given on the third day after birth. When second injections were
made these were given at ten days of age. The injectable materials
used and their potencies are described in footnote on page I. The
iron-B12 compound (Rubrafer) was administered in two equal portions
subrutaneous ly under each front leg. The iron-dextran compound (Armi-
dexan) was administered in two equal.portions intramuscularly into each
ham. The experimental treatments studied In the various trials are
outlined in Table l.
Table I. Treatments Studied in Various Trials
Trial Treatment Group Treatment
I 1 ,. Control.
2 0.84 cc. Rubrafer at-3 days
II .I Control
2 0.84 cc. Rubrafer at 3 days
Ill I Control
2 0.84 cc. Rubrafer at 3 days
3 0.84 cc. Rubrafer at 3 and 10 days
IV I Control
2 0.84 cc. Rubrafer at 3 and 10 days
3 2.00 cc. Armldexan bt 3 aAd 10 days
Trial I Twelve litters were involved in this trial. At two weeks of
age four litters were removed from the test for other experimental
purposes. 'All remaining litters were weaned at five weeks of age and
continued in concrete confinement until the conclusion of the trial
at eight weeks of age. The trial was in progress during the period
of June II to August 21, 1958.
Trial II Eight litters were involved in this trial. All experimental
procedures were similar to that employed in Trial 1. However, in this
trial five litters were discontinued on the test after two weeks of
age and only threelitters were studied for the entire eight week period.
The trial was initiated on August 8 and terminated on October 12, 1958.
Trial III This trial was conducted to evaluate the merits of a second.
injection of Iron. Nine litters were Involved. All pigs were weaned
at two weeks of age and reared on a dry meal mixture for the remainder
of the eight week test period. The trial was initiated on September
10 and terminated on December 20, 1958.
Trial IV The objective of this trial was to compare the relative
efficiency of Rubrafer and Armidexan as sources of injectable iron.
Eighteen litters were Involved. Four litters were removed from.the
trial at two weeks of age for other experimental purposes. The fourteen
remaining litters were assigned to two similar groups on the basis of
litter size, age of sow, and past performances of sows. One group of
sows and their litters were transferred from concrete confinement to
lush legume pasture at three weeks of age. The other group remained con-
fined to concrete floored pens until they reached five weeks of age.
Both groups remained on test until they reached an age of eight weeks.
Results end Discussion
Trial I and jI Results are summarized in Table 2. A marked arrest of
hemoglobin decline was noted in both trials due to the injection of
Rubrafer (injectable iron and 812). These differences were noted at
all bleedingsand were still in evidence at the end of the eight week
No apparent difference in rate of gain was observed during the first
two weeks. However, after this period the treated pigs gained slightly
Several of the control pigs developed early anemia symptoms, such
as Ilstlessness, and rough haircoats. However, no deaths, directly or
indirectly due to anemia were recorded. No anemic pigs were observed
in the treated groups.
Treated pigs exhibited some stiffness In their front legs for two
or three days after injection. No serious toxic effects were observed.
Almost no creep feed was consumed by the pigs during the suckling
period.. This was truefor both control and treated pigs. After weaning
at five weeks of age the ration was readily consumed.
Table 2. THE INFLUENCE OF RUBRAFER COMBINATIONN OF INJECTABLE IRON AND 812)
ON WEIGHT GAINS AND HEMOGLCBIN LEVELS OF YOUNG PIGS (TRIALS I AND II)
Two Week Trial i' h Eight Week.Trial
Control Treated Control Treated
Number of pigs 36 39 22 24
Initial wt., Ib. 2.41 2.36 2.69 2.60
Two week wt., lb. 6.14 6.01 6.49 6.57
Five week wt., Ib. --- 13.06 14.34
Eight week wt., lb. --- 22.60 24.63
Initial hemoglobin, gm. 9.79 9.91 9.92 10.09
Two week hemoglobin, gm. 6.36 9.17 6.69 9.11
Five week hemoglobin, gm. --- -- 4.83 6.60/ ,
Eight week hemoglobin, gm. -- --- 7.89 9.19 /
Number of pigs 32 34 11 12
Initial wt., lb. 3.11 3.15 3.28 3.17
Two week wt., Ib. 8.49 8.51 8.75 8.12
Five week wt., Ib. ---- ---- 15.59 15.76
Eight week wt., Ib. --- 31.42 32.15
Initial hemoglobin, gm. 10.45 10.25 10.18 9.97
Two week hemoglobin, gm. 5.22 7.92 5.85 7.09
Five week hemoglobin, gm. --- ----- 4.01 5.39
Eight week hemoglobin, gm. ----- ----- 9.08 10.08
I/ Significantly higher than control (PLO.01)
2/ Significantly higher than control (PL 0.05)
Trial III Results are summarized In Table 3. The main objective of
this:trial was to evaluate the merits of a second iron injection. Two
injections maintained hemoglobin at higher levels over the eight week
test period than did a single injection. Hemoglobin levels of control
and single injection pigs continued to decline after the usual initial
drop noted during the first week. However, the hemoglobin of pigs
given a second injection were higher at the end of the second week
than at the end of the first week.
Final eight week weights were 34.88, 36.31, and 37.97 Ib. respect-
ively for the control, one injection, and two injection groups. Two
injections were more effective for the promotion of weight gains than
one injection. It should be pointed out again'that all pigs of this
trial were weaned at two weeks of age and at this time were given
access to a complete feed mixture containing liberal quantities of
iron* Even so the iron Injections,' both single and double, maintained
improved hemoglobin levels and promoted faster gains.
Trial IV Results are summarized In Tables 4 and 5. All pigs remained
on the sow until they reached eight weeks of age. Both Rubrafer and
Armidexan injections promoted faster gains and maintained higher levels
of hemoglobin than were observed In the untreated pigs (Table 4).
Weight gains favored the Armidexan treatment over Rubrafer but the
difference was not statistically significant. Differences in hemoglo-
bin levels were statistically significant and. n favor of the Armidexan
treatment. No deaths due to anemia occurred ih eltheriof the treated
groups, but 12 pigs in the control group died of anemia. Acute anemia
was first evident when the pigs were two to three weeks of age. All
deaths occurred after the third week. The higher incidence of anemia
in this trial as compared to the previous trials may be partially due
to the more accelerated growth rate. Faster gaining pigs tend to become
anemic sooner because they deplete iron reserves more rapidly,
Table 5 presents the effects of these same treatments on the per-
formance of pigs moved to pasture at three weeks of age compared to
pigs moved to pasture at five weeks of age. The age at which pigs
were placed on pasture exerted no significant effect on eight week
weights. Five week hemoglobin levels of the pigs.placed on pasture at
three weeks of age were significantly higher for all treatments than
those for the pigs placed on pasture at five weeks of age. This Indi-
cates that access to soil and/or forage speeded hemoglobin recovery.
At eight weeks of age hemoglobin levels were similar for the two groups.
THE INFLUENCE OF ONE
GAINS AND HEMOGLOBIN
TWO WEEKS OF AGE
VS. TO0 INJECTIONS OF RUBRAFER ON
LEVELS OF YOUNG PIGS WEANED AT
Number of pigs
Two week wt. lb.
Five week wt. lb.
Eight week wt. Ib.
Initial hemoglobin gm.
One week hemoglobin gm.
Two week hemoglobin gm.
Three week hemoglobin gm.
Five week hemoglobin gm.
Eight week hemoglobin gm.
Two I niections
10.30 I/ 2/
L/ Significantly higher than control (PL0.01)
2/ Significantly higher than one injection (PLO.01)
1/ Significantly higher than control (PL0.05)
-I u J I I l
1 111 -- ----- -- --
- ---- I-; -
Table 4. A COMPARISON OF THE EFFECT OF RUBRAFER AND ARMIDEXAN INJECTIONS ON WEIGHT GAINS
AND HEMOGLOBIN LEVELS OF YOUNG PIGS (TRIAL IV).
.. ,- L , ,
Two Week Trial
Control Rubrafer Armidexan
Number of pigs
Initial wt., lb.
Two week wt., Ib.
Five week wt., Ib.
Eight week wt., lb.
Initial hemoglobin, gm.
: Two week hemoglobin, g89
Five week hemoglobin, gm.
Eight week hemoglobin; gm.
Eight Week Trial
Control Rubrafer Armidexan
t/ Seven pigs died between 3rd and 8th week due to anemia;.
2/ Significantly heavier than controls (PL 0.01.)
5/ Significantly higher than controls (P / 0.01)
V/ Significantly higher than Rubrafer (P / 0.01
2/ Significantly higher than Rubrafer (PL 0.05)
_J ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~~~~~ 'tl~ i i l"Il Il
Table 5. THE INFLUENCE OF IRON INJECTIONS ON THE PERFORMANCE OF
PIjS PLACED ON PASTURE AT 3 WEEKS OF AGE AND AT 5 WEEKS OF AGE (TRIAL IV).
On Pasture at 3 Weeks of Age
Control Rubrafer- -Armidexan-
On Pasture at 5 Weeks of Age
Control Rubrafer- Armidexan
Number of pigs
Initial wt., Ib.
Three week wt., lb.
Five week wt., lb.
Eight week wt.,l-b.
Initial, hemoglobin, gm.
Three week hemoglobin, gm.
Five week hemoglobin, gm.
Eight week hemoglobin, gm.
1/ Three pigs died of anemia between 3rd and 5th week, one between 5th and 8th week.
2/ Four pigs died of anemia between 3rd and 5th week, four between 5th and 8th week.
_/ Significantly heavier than control (P L 0.05).
4/ Significantly heavier than control (PL 0.001).
5/ Significantly higher than control and Rubrafer (P L 0.01).
6/ Significantly higher than control (P L 0.01).
ZI Significantly higher than same iron treatment in five-week pasture group.
~_ __ __ __ _
Summary and Conclusions
Four trials involving 381 pigs from forty-seven litters have been
conducted to determine the effectiveness of injectable iron for the
prevention of baby pig anemia.
In all trials Injectable iron significantly elevated hemoglobin
levels and prevented all deaths from anemia. Eight week weaning weights
were heavier for the iron injected pigs.
Two injections, one at 3 and one at 10 days of age, were superior
to a single injection at 3 days of age.
Intramuscular injections of iron-dextra (Armidexan) were more
effective for the maintenance of hemoglobin than subcutaneous Injections
of iron and BI2 (Rubrafer).
No serious toxic effects were observed from injections of the test
Suckling pigs failed to consume an appreciable amount of creep
feed prior to five weeks of age.
The use of suitable injectable Iron compounds for the prevention
of anemia in suckling pigs is recommended. This procedure represents
a very effective method of preventing not only acute anemia but border-
line cases which may increase losses from other causes. Pigs suckled
for extended periods in confinement without access to soil are in
greatest need of the injections. Cost is the only major objection to
the use of iron injections. It is the authors' opinion, however, that
the injections will more than pay their way by making it possible to
wean more pigs that are heavier and healthier.