Heavier Litters for Sows on High-Fibre Diet

FRANCE - Piglets born from sows fed the high-fibre diet during pregnancy grew faster than those from sows fed a standard control diet, without compromising sow body weight or backfat.
calendar icon 28 January 2009
clock icon 4 minute read

This study was conducted by H. Quesnel and colleagues at INRA at Rennes in France and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada at Sherbrooke, Québec, Canada, The aim was to investigate the effects of feeding sows a bulky diet during gestation on their physiological and metabolic adaptations during the peri-partum period, and to determine how these effects may relate to sow and piglet performance.

From day 26 of gestation until farrowing, gilts were fed diets that contained 2.8 or 11.0 per cent crude fibre (control and high-fibre diets, respectively; n=9 per group). Daily feed allowance provided the same amount of digestible energy (DE) daily (33 MJ DE per day). Throughout lactation, sows were allowed to consume a standard lactating sow diet ad libitum.

Litters were standardized to 12 piglets beyond 48 hours after birth.

On day 105 of gestation, a jugular catheter was surgically implanted. Pre-prandial blood samples were collected from day 109 of gestation to the day after farrowing and on days 4, 18 and 26 of lactation.

Meal tests and glucose tolerance tests were performed on day 109 of gestation and days 4 and 18 of lactation.

During gestation, body weight and backfat gain did not differ between treatment groups.

During lactation, sows fed the high-fibre diet ate an average of 0.94 kg per day more than control sows (P<0.02).

Piglets born from sows fed the high-fibre diet grew faster than piglets from control sows (P=0.03).

Body weight and backfat losses did not differ between the two treatment groups.

Sows fed the high-fiber diet during gestation had lesser concentrations of leptin before farrowing than control sows (P<0.01). Leptin concentrations were negatively correlated with feed intake during lactation (P<0.05).

The pre-partal increase in prolactin concentrations tended to be greater in sows fed the high-fibre diet than in control sows (P<0.1).

Pre-prandial concentrations of glucose, NEFA, lactate and IGF-I fluctuated over time without significant treatment effect. Glucose half-life was shorter in late gestation than during both stages of lactation but did not differ between sows in the two groups. In late gestation, the postprandial increases in glucose and insulin were delayed, and smaller, after a high-fibre meal than after a control meal.

During lactation, glucose and insulin profiles after a standard meal did not differ between sows from treatment groups.

In conclusion, the greater appetite of lactating sows fed a high-fibre diet during gestation does not seem related to changes in glucose and insulin metabolism and may be partly due to decreased secretion of leptin.

The greater feed consumption was accompanied by a faster growth rate of piglets without sparing effect on maternal body reserves.


Quesnel H., M.-C. Meunier-Salaün, A. Hamard, R. Guillemet, M. Etienne, C. Farmer, J.-Y. Dourmad and M.-C. Père. 2009. Dietary fiber for pregnant sows: Influence on sow physiology and performance during lactation. J. Anim Sci. 87:532-543. doi:10.2527/jas.2008-1231
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