January 03, 2022

Interpretive Summary: Impacts of silymarin on the reproductive performance of sows

Interpretive Summary: Impacts of silymarin on the reproductive performance of sows

By: Anne Kamiya, MS

Silymarin is a flavonolignan extracted from milk thistle fruit and seeds. It has traditionally been used to reduce liver inflammation and toxicity in both humans and animals but may also potentially increase milk production during lactation. In this recent Journal of Animal Science study, researchers fed prenatal sows different doses of silymarin to evaluate the impacts feeding this supplement had on their milk yields, feed intake and litters. 

A total of 40 multiparous sows were fed four different concentrations of micelle silymarin, ranging from no silymarin (the negative control) at the lowest concentration to silymarin supplemented up to 0.2% of feed at the highest concentration. Sows were given silymarin from prenatal day 109 to postnatal day 21. Piglet body weight, litter weight and litter gain were measured in addition to average daily gain (ADG). 

Results indicated that sows fed more silymarin had increased average daily milk yield, increased milk fat content and their piglets had increased feed intake, ADG, individual weight and litter weight at weaning. They also grew faster than the piglets of sows that were not fed any silymarin. Serum hormones and metabolites (e.g., aspartate aminotransferase concentration and superoxide dismutase activity) were also beneficially impacted by silymarin. The authors noted that these improvements with feeding silymarin were observed in a dose-dependent manner, with the highest concentration (0.2% of feed) having the most beneficial effects. 

Overall, the results of this study suggest that silymarin may have the potential to increase the reproductive performance of sows.  More in depth studies looking at what the ideal dose of silymarin is and how supplementing silymarin at higher than 0.2% of feed might impact the growth, health and productivity of sows and their offspring are justified.

The original article, Micelle silymarin supplementation to sows’ diet from day 109 of gestation to entire lactation period enhances reproductive performance and affects serum hormones and metabolites, is available in the Journal of Animal Science.