A total of 91 sows (Line 241, DNA Genetics) were used to evaluate the effects of supplemental fat sources and essential fatty acid intake on sow farrowing performance, litter growth performance, and essential fatty acid composition of colostrum, milk, and adipose tissue. At approximately day 107 of gestation, sows were blocked by body weight and parity, then allotted to 1 of 5 experimental treatments as part of a 2 × 2 + 1 factorial arrangement. Experimental diets were corn-soybean meal-based with a control diet that contained no added fat or diets with 3% added fat as either beef tallow or soybean oil, with consumption of the added fat diets starting on day 107 or 112 of gestation and fed until weaning. Thus, sows were provided low essential fatty acids (EFA; as linoleic and α-linolenic acid) without supplemental fat or with beef tallow or high EFA with soybean oil. Sows were provided approximately 2.8 kg/d of their assigned lactation diet pre-farrow and then provided ad libitum access after parturition. Sows consuming diets with beef tallow had greater lactation ADFI (fat source, P = 0.030), but lower daily linoleic acid (LA) and α-linolenic acid (ALA) intake than sows that consumed diets with soybean oil (fat source, P < 0.001). Supplemental fat sources providing either low or high EFA did not influence litter growth performance (fat source, P > 0.05). Sows fed diets with beef tallow did not influence the LA composition of colostrum; however, lactation diets with high EFA provided by soybean oil on day 107 of gestation increased colostrum LA concentration compared to providing diets on day 112 of gestation (fat source × time, P = 0.084; time, P < 0.001). Additionally, regardless of pre-farrow timing, ALA concentration of colostrum increased when sows consumed diets with soybean oil compared to beef tallow (fat source, P < 0.001).
Both LA and ALA concentrations of milk at weaning were greater for sows that consumed diets with soybean oil compared to beef tallow (fat source, P < 0.001). Furthermore, concentrations of LA and ALA within adipose tissue were greater at weaning when sows consumed diets with high EFA compared to low EFA (fat source, P < 0.05). These responses suggest that providing dietary fat sources with high concentrations of EFA can increase backfat, colostrum, and milk LA and ALA. However, in this experiment, changes in colostrum and milk composition did not influence litter growth performance.