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Increased Sow Milk Yields Offer Potential Improved Piglet Growth

04 March 2015
Manitoba Pork Council

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CANADA - A research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada says using strategies that will improve the sow's milk yields will give her piglets a better chance to optimise their growth, writes Bruce Cochrane.

As part of a multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary project being conducted on behalf of Swine Innovation Porc, scientists with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Prairie Swine Centre and the University of Saskatchewan are working to optimize piglet growth by using low-cost feeding and management strategies to increase sow milk yields.

Dr Chantal Farmer, a research scientist in sow lactation biology with the Dairy and Swine Research and Development Centre, notes over the past 15 years sows have been genetically selected for greater litter size.

Dr Chantal Farmer-Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada:

It's achieved its goal so we now have what we call hyperprolific sow lines, sows that will produce a great deal more piglets.

You can easily find 16 or 18 piglets per sow, compared to maybe 8 or 10 before. It's a drastic increase which is very good, but it made worse an already existing problem, that each piglet is not consuming enough milk during lactation.

That was a problem 15 years ago, and it's still a problem now, and if not even worse, because we have litter sizes that are much bigger.

Even if the selection also increased milk yield of the sows, it did not do it to the same extent that it increased litter size.

We have very hyperprolific sows but we have piglets that don't consume individually enough milk.
That leads us to the problem of what can we do to increase sow milk yield so that our piglets can have an optimal growth rate.

In fact right now if you took a piglet and you gave it artificial milk on the side it would grow more so definitely the sow is limiting the growth rate of our suckling piglets.

Dr Farmer expects this work to be of particular interest to pork producers, nutritionists and veterinarians.

ThePigSite News Desk

Top image via Shutterstock

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