Ad libitum Feeding During the Peripartal Period Affects Body Condition, Reproduction and Metabolism of Sows

Ad-lib feeding sows in poor or moderate body condition around farrowing had beneficial effects on sow backfat and piglet performance to weaning, according to a new study from Belgium.
calendar icon 18 March 2014
clock icon 3 minute read

To overcome negative energy balance during the peripartal period of sows, an ad-libitum feeding strategy (ADLIB) as alternative for commonly used restricted feeding (STANDARD, on average 3kg feed per day) was evaluated was A. Cools of Ghent University in Belgium.

In a paper published in the journal, Animal Production Science, they explain that they monitored plasma metabolites and thyroid hormones, change of backfat thickness, reproductive traits, and piglet performance.

Voluntary feed intake of ADLIB sows declined at farrowing but was still more than twice the amount of the amount offered to STANDARD sows. Consequently, ADLIB sows lost less backfat than STANDARD sows (P=0.041).

Additionally, backfat change was affected by body condition. LEAN sows (backfat <18mm on day 105 of gestation) lost less backfat than MODERATE sows (backfat 18-20mm), which lost less backfat than FAT sows (backfat >22mm; (P<0.001).

Except for a decreased percentage of stillborn piglets for MODERATE sows (P=0.044), reproduction results were not affected.

Piglet weaning weight of ADLIB-FAT and STANDARD-MODERATE sows was reduced in comparison with that of ADLIB-LEAN sows (P=0.005).

Regardless of body condition, all metabolites and thyroid hormones measured showed a time-dependent profile (P<0.001). On day 112 of gestation increased concentrations of creatinine (P=0.004), non-esterified fatty acids (P=0.039) and serum crosslaps (P=0.016) for STANDARD sows were observed. Triglycerides were increased for FAT sows (P<0.001) and decreased faster over time for ADLIB (P=0.013) and for FAT (P=0.012).

The researchers concluded that, although ad-libitum feeding during the peripartal period only resulted in less mobilisation of muscle, fat and bone reserves on day 112 of gestation, results of backfat change and piglet weaning weight indicated that ad libitum feeding is beneficial for sow performance provided that backfat is below 22mm.


Cools A., D. Maes, R. Decaluwé, J. Buyse, T.A.T.G. van Kempen, A. Liesegang and G.P.J. Janssens. 2014. Ad libitum feeding during the peripartal period affects body condition, reproduction results and metabolism of sows. Animal Reproduction Science. 145(3):130-140.

Further Reading

You can view the full report (fee payable) by clicking here.

March 2014

Sponsored content
© 2000 - 2022 - Global Ag Media. All Rights Reserved | No part of this site may be reproduced without permission.