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Effect of Copper Supplementation on the Growth Performance of Newly Weaned Piglets

V. S. Rajput Vishal Mudgal G. P. Lakhani Shalini Srivastava
Vol 2(2), 69-73

To study the effect of copper supplementation on the growing crossed piglets, 10 five week’s old weaned piglets (body weight 9 ± 4kg) were divided into two groups of 5 each on the basis of body weight as per complete randomized design (CRD). One of the groups was fed the basal diet made up of maize 45%, Rice polish 43.75%, mustard cake 8.75% and Fish meal 2.5%, while another worked as treatment and fed 250ppm copper through copper sulphate penta-hydrate, in addition to the same basal diet.Piglets were weighed fortnightly for one month and the data were analyzed by T test. The results revealed that the effect of copper supplementation on the growth performance remained statistically similar (P>0.05) between the two groups.Thus the study indicates that supplementation of 250ppm copper in the diet of piglets did not affect the growth performance (P>0.05) when the period of study was very short i.e. one month and hence recommended a long term study to evaluate proper response of copper supplementation in piglets.

Keywords : Copper sulphate Piglets Growth performance


Feeding of non ruminant animals is the major issue of interest due to close competition with the human beings for the feed ingredients, which makes their feed ingredients costlier and thus their is always challenges to achieve higher growth rate of piglets with efficient feed conversion ratio. The reduced need of feed ingredients will ultimately increase the profit as the feed contributes about 65-70% of the total cost of piglets rearing. In that respect the use of growth promoters is always a necessity of the pork industry and thus the search of alternative and cheaper growth promoters are always the burning issues for animal nutritionists to obtain economical production.

Sub therapeutic level of antibiotics (antibiotics growth promoters, AGP) in the diet of non ruminants being used from about 65 years back (Moore et al., 1946) and become a routine practice to increase growth rate and feed conversion efficiency of the growing birds and piglets. The side effects of using antibiotics in nor-ruminants diet is a major safety concern now a day, which creates major health problem to the human being exposed to the antibiotics through consumption of meat of those animals (Waldroup et al., 2003). The development of antibiotic resistance is the matter of prime concern and thus the indiscriminate use of sub therapeutic level of antibiotics is now being discouraged in the diet of animals to avoid the fatal consequences of the same. Even the use of antibiotics as growth promoter is now being banned by the legislation of several countries, and some countries are very serious to doing so.

Now the aim of the Animal Nutritionist is to find out the safer alternatives of antibiotics and on that respect use of high level of copper was being claimed as comparatively safer alternative. The major site of copper accumulation is not the muscle and thus meat of animals remains safe for human consumption. On other hand the effect of post weaning stress and domination of opportunistic pathogens which causes diarrhoea and growth depression may also get counteracted by using copper in their diet due to its antimicrobial action (Smith et al., 1997; Cromwell et al., 1998; Hill et al., 2000).

As we all are aware that Copper is an essential trace mineral for farm animals and the requirement of Cu for growth is 8ppm (NRC, 1994), but supra-nutritional level of copper when supplemented have multiple beneficial effects (Braude, 1948 and Barber et al., 1965). Out of the several commercially available sources of copper, it is supplemented as growth promoter routinely through CuSO4 at the level of 125-250ppm (Fisher et al., 1973; Kornegay et al., 1989; Hoda and Maha., 1995; Pesti and Bakali., 1996; Ewing et al., 1998; Banks et al., 2004 and Zhang et al., 2009) due to its higher availability (Rostagno et al., 1994, Jongbloed et al., 2002) and cheaper cost and hence the study was designed to find out the effect of copper supplementation (@250ppm) as growth promoter, which can serve as economical and safe solution to discourage the use of antibiotics in the diet of piglets.

Materials and Methods

Piglets from a cross of large white Yorkshire male with non-descript (desi) Indian females were used for the study. The piglets were weaned at 28 days of age and 10 piglets (body weight, 9 ± 4kg) were selected for the study. The piglets were divided into two homogeneous groups of five piglets in each group using completely randomized design (CRD) and were reared in concrete floored rooms with proper ventilation, watering and feeding facilities.

The basal diet prepared for the growing piglets was having Maize 45%, Rice polish 43.75%, mustard cake 8.75% and Fish meal 2.5%. The basal diet was utilized for feeding the experimental piglets of control group, while the treatment group was supplemented with 250ppm copper through copper sulphate pentahydrate. The piglets were weighed in the morning before offering them feed and water and it was done at the time of start of the experiment and thereafter at fortnight intervals.

The data obtained were subjected to T test to compare between the two groups as per the standard methods (Snedecor and Cochran, 1989).

Results and Discussion

The records of fortnight body weight (Table 1) indicates that, the body weight of the two groups were remained statistically comparable (P>0.05) in both the fortnights.

Table 1: Effect of copper supplementation on body weight (Kg) gain of piglets

Piglet No. 0 day           15th day 30th day
  Control Treatment Control Treatment Control Treatment
1 18 14 19 15 21 18
2 09 09 10 10 11 11
3 13 13 14 14 15 16
4 09 10 10 11 11 12
5 11 14 12 15 13 16
Average 12.0 12.0 13.0 13.0 14.2 14.6


In contrast to the present findings Fisher et al. (1973); Cromwell et al.(1989); Dove (1993); Coffey et al. (1994) Hoda and Maha (1995); Pesti and Bakalli (1996) and Ewing et al. (1998)   found improvement in weight gain when supplemented from 125 to 250ppm of copper in diet of either broiler chicken or piglets.

When we discuss about the mode of action of copper it is found that Little information is known about the growth stimulation mechanisms but the increased feed intake may play an important role in this growth stimulating process; however, such appetite stimulating effect of high dietary copper is attenuated as the pig grows (Mei et al., 2010). Increased activities of digestive enzymes (Luo and Dove, 1996) may be associated with the growth promoting effect of copper, while one of the possible mechanisms could be attributed to the bactericidal, bacteriostatic, or both, effects of Cu on the gastrointestinal tract’s harmful microbes (Hawbaker et al., 1961; Bunch et al., 1965; Hojberg et al., 2005; Mei et al., 2010). In this respect also, there is evidence that antimicrobial agents are usually more efficient as growth promoters in old facilities or buildings with poor sanitary conditions than in new, isolated environments, but still the mechanism of action of excessive copper as growth promoter is not clear (Zhou et al., 1994).

Poupoulis and Jensen (1976) also used 250ppm Cu in the broiler chicken diet but did not observe effect on the growth response. However, similar to the present findings Shelton et al. (2009) recommended a long term study to find out any significant effect on the growth performance of the piglets; hence a long term study is suggested to find out any definite conclusion.


Thus the study indicates that the duration used in the present study (30 days) was too short and which may be associated for not observing any beneficial effect on the growth performance of the piglets, thus it is suggested that long term study may be conducted to find out the clear picture on this aspect.


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