Feeding your Breeding Gilts

By Livestock Knowledge Transfer, UK - This article is the sixth in the series from "Getting the best from your pigs" and looks at the best practice feeding strategy for breeding gilts.
calendar icon 1 May 2003
clock icon 4 minute read

The breeding gilt is a very valuable animal. Whether she is home-reared, or bought in, feeding her correctly will ensure that she lives a long, productive life and is not culled early for poor performance. The gilt reared for breeding needs fat reserves to help see her through the rigours of several lactations and strong bones to prevent her from going lame.

Home reared gilts

To make the most of these breeding gilts they should be housed separately from the slaughter pigs from about 70 kg so they follow a different feeding strategy. If this is not possible then the feeding strategy should be followed as soon as practical after that weight. Bought in weaner gilts should follow the same feed strategy whilst in isolation housing and subsequently when transferred to the main unit.


  • 35 to 130 kg - a slower DLWG and greater backfat level than slaughter gilts
  • 130 kg to first service - a high nutrient intake to achieve a flushing effect before mating
  • Mating to late pregnancy - a steady increase in maternal body weight
  • Late pregnancy to weaning - good piglet birth and weaning weights and only a small loss in body condition of the gilt

Best practice feeding strategy

  • Phase 1 - 35 to 70 kg: a medium density finisher diet fed ad-lib
  • Phase 2 - 70 kg to 21 days premating: a specialised gilt rearing diet fed at 2.5 to 3.0 kg/d
  • Phase 3 - 21 days pre-mating to mating: a specialised gilt rearing diet fed ad-lib
  • Phase 4 - Mating to late pregnancy: a specialised gilt rearing diet fed at 2.0 to 2.5 kg/d
  • Phase 5 - Late pregnancy to weaning: a lactating sow diet to appetite
  • Phase 6 - weaning to mating: a specialised gilt rearing diet fed ad-lib.

Target nutrient intakes

Phase DE Intake MJ/d CP Intake g/d Lysine intake g/d
Phase 1 35 375 32
Phase 2 44 450 26
Phase 3 55 560 32
Phase 4 30 300 18
Phase 5 48 490 28
Phase 6 60 800 45

Why have a specialised gilt rearing diet?

Breeding gilts need to grow at a slower rate than gilts reared for slaughter to allow them time to build up fat reserves.
A specialised gilt rearing diet is designed to supply energy to allow the young gilts to build up fat reserves and at the same time to supply adequate levels of lysine to enable them to continue lean growth. This is important for the development of the reproductive system.
The use of a specialised gilt diet after 70 kg also gives a higher intake of calcium and phosphorus over and above that required by the slaughter pigs. This will promote stronger bones to withstand the rigours of a long breeding life.
If the feed storage facilities on the unit do not allow for a gilt diet to be used a compromise feeding strategy should be devised based on the diets that are available on the unit.

Development of a compromise feeding strategy

  • Note down the DE, CP, lysine, Ca, and P contents of the diets
  • Using the table above and the nutrient contents of the diets devise a feeding plan

Factors to bear in mind:

  • how much the gilts can eat per day
  • lysine intake is more important that CP
  • the content of the trace element supplement, particularly Cu, must be within the Feeding stuffs regulations
    (e.g. max 35mg/kg over 6 months)
  • Ca and P should not be less than for the slaughter pigs (approximately 0.65% Ca and 0.5% P)

Source: Livestock Knowledge Transfer - First published 2001. Added to this site 2003.

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