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Feeding the Sow: Comparison of Gestational and Lactation Programmes

30 July 2014

None of the sow feeding systems tested gave a clear advantage, according to P.H. Luimes and G. Simpson in a report for Ontario Pork.

Proper nutrition for sows through their previous lactation, and current gestation can have an impact on their piglets’ future growth performance and survival.

Various feeding programmes have been proposed, and each can potentially provide a benefit to the sow, piglets, and/or costs. One method is feeding for backfat thickness and sow weight, which prevents over-conditioning, reduces feed cost, and provided easier farrowing.

Three lactation feeding methods have not been tested but are used in practice exist.

  • One is to restrict feed for two to three days, then increase quickly for lactation.
  • Another is to slowly increase feed, and hold it steady until day 12 of lactation.
  • Finally, a sow can self-feed by pressing a dispenser.

The three methods were tested for lactating sows, as well as gestation feeding either for body condition (conventional), or weight and backfat thickness (Kansas State).

Conventional feeding in lactation increased gestation length but otherwise, lactation and gestation stages were unaffected.

The Kansas State gestation feeding increased feed intake in gestation, and led to less feed intake when lactating.

The gradual increase (ramped-up) lactation feeding slightly increased feed intake.

The Kansas State gestation-fed sows had higher backfat and weights throughout the trial but lost slightly more backfat than conventionally fed. The ramped-up lactation feeding resulted in less weight loss.

Gestation feeding type had no impact on litter performance, and cross-fostering made performance at weaning difficult to analyse. However, ad libitum lactation feeding resulted in bigger litters with lower birth weights, and lower weaning weights.

No system gave a clear advantage. However, cost savings could be considered for the systems, and the Kansas State system allows better monitoring of sow condition.

July 2014

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