MORRIS — University of Minnesota researchers are taking on the challenge of decreasing pre-weaning mortality rates in piglets after hearing from pork producers and industry professionals.

In previous research, Minnesota researchers showed elevated levels of zinc in the sow’s diet during pregnancy positively influences pig performance after birth. This new research project aims to determine the timing and duration of zinc that may influence “fetal imprinting” to optimize health and performance.

The team will explore practical applications of zinc supplementation that adds little to no extra cost to producers yet reduces pre-weaning pig mortality. The project brings the cutting-edge concept of fetal imprinting to an implementation level for commercial sow farms, allowing producers to positively influence lifetime performance of their pigs prior to birth.

All animals in the study will be fitted with the latest in precision technology from PrairiE Systems of Spencer, Iowa, allowing researchers to closely monitor health, weight and performance.

“PrairiE Systems is excited to partner with the University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center on this project. We believe our solution, LeeO, will provide this trial with more accurate readings, along with time and labor savings. We anticipate this research project, being conducted with zinc, will be incredibly beneficial to the industry and we look forward to the results,” reports Joel Stave, Managing Director of PrairiE Systems LLC.

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Leading the project is Lee Johnston, professor of swine nutrition at the U of M West Central Research and Outreach Center at Morris. Contributing partners include Pedro Urriola, Moon-Suhn Ryu, Kelsey Hammers and Andres Gomez, all from the University of Minnesota, and Mark Schwartz of Schwartz Farms, Sleepy Eye.

The study will be conducted on a commercial, farrow-to-wean sow farm owned by Schwartz Farms, Inc. Results of the study will be available at

Funding is provided by the Pork Checkoff through the Minnesota Pork Board.