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This month, I would like to share with you some information that I recently learnt about when discussing with some friends from USA. I knew already the important of DHA & EPA long chain Fatty Acids Omega 3 for the human health but I realized lately the role that these DHA & EPA fatty acids are playing in animal reproduction and immunity.

DHA & EPA have a double interest in the reproduction system. They play a physical role by facilitating the permeability of cell membranes and a chemical role as precursor of important hormones. They cannot be synthesized by mammals and need to be brought by the feed regime primarily from marine sources. DHA & EPA are n-3 polyunsaturated long-chain fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs). They have multiple double bonds of which the first double bond is located on the 3rd bond (that is why we call it Omega 3). As each double bond creates a deviation of the chain, multiple double bonds will give a specific circular form to DHA and EPA. The more double bonds that are in the molecule, the less stable is the fatty acid.

When these fatty acids are incorporated in the cell membranes, their specific circular form will make the membrane more elastic and less rigid and therefore enable a better permeability and fluidity.

Chemically, DHA & EPA are part of the synthesis of essential immune modulators as cytokines and aids the production of Prostaglandins type 3 which are required for the maturation of the ovocytes and the survival of the embryos. An optimal supplementation of DHA & EPA in the diet would trigger several physiological benefits.

  • Increased ovulation rate

  • Embryo implantation by blocking release of PGF2 alpha from uterus (Mattos et al., 2002)

  • General growth and blood flow in the placenta (thus improving nutrient supply to the fetus)

  • Increased content of EFAs in the fetus (thus encouraging normal growth and development)

  • Immune competence of the fetus.

Actually, it is not only about supplying sufficient Omega 3 acids in the diet; it is as well to ensure a proper balance between Omega 6 and Omega 3 A proper Omega 6 / Omega 3 PUFAs (between 8:1 to 4:1) balance in the diet may be important for optimal functioning of the immune system. It should be especially stressed that too high Omega 6 / Omega 3 PUFA ratio, often observed in livestock diets (around 20:1 in standard Poultry and Swine feed formula), can lead to an increase in the production of pro-inflammatory mediators (cytokines) such as tumor necrosis factor α (TNF), interleukin-1 (IL-81 1), and interleukin-6 (IL-6) and thus excessively enhance inflammatory response (Simopoulos, 2002), which can negatively affect feed intake (Klasing, 1988; Ferket and 83 Gernat, 2006). Most of Swine, Poultry & Dairy feeds are over balanced in Omega 6 and under balanced in Omega 3. The incorporation of additional DHA & EPA would result in better reproductive performance;

Increase number of piglet born – trials in sows indicated that the supplementation in DHA & EPA could increase the number of piglets born up to 1.2 piglets per sow per year.

Increase piglet activity at birth. DHA has been shown to be a key factor for brain development. It represents up to 6% of total brain weight and supplementation through feed is critical for piglet brain development.

Reduce the open days in Dairy – trials in dairy cows showed that the supplementation in DHA & EPA in diets could reduce the period between calving and increase farmers profit up to 100 USD per cow per year.

The recommended dosage of DHA & EPA in the feed for Sow should be between 200 and 500ppm depending on the duration of use. In addition, the formula must be revised to limit the supply of Omega 6 sources. All dairy, layers and lactating sow feeds should be supplemented in DHA & EPA. But the selection of the source of ingredients should be handled carefully as many sources of DHA & EPA are very sensitive to rancidity and oxidation. Without proper care, oxidised fish oil will impact negatively feed intake and will actually be detrimental to animal performance. For Dairy, the selection is even more critical. Standard fish oil will be hydrogenated in rumen and DHA & EPA needs therefore to be encapsulated if we want them to bypass rumen.

If you are interested in enhancing reproductive and immunity performance in livestock, please let me know and I will help you to source the most reliable sources of Omega 3 and help you to optimise incorporation of various PUFAs in your feed formula.

Related tags : Omega 3 - Reproduction - Immunity

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