INRA Studies Sow's Transition to Lactation Diet

FRANCE - Sows fed a high-fibre diet during early and mid-pregnancy chose the lactation diet ahead of those fed a normal gestation ration. Backfat measurement was not affected by treatment but the sows on the high-fibre treatment lost more weight during lactation although daily net energy intake was balanced during pregnancy.
calendar icon 30 July 2010
clock icon 4 minute read

Feed transition between gestation and lactation is exhibited earlier in sows fed a high-fibre diet during gestation, according to Guillemet and colleagues at INRA Saint-Gilles in a recently published paper in Journal of Animal Science.

The researchers explain that the underconsumption of feed frequently observed in young sows during lactation can result from an adaptation problem of the sow to the new feeding management in terms of diet composition and feeding amount.

Their study aimed to investigate how the sow manages her own feed transition when given the choice between the gestation diet and the lactation diet from moving into the farrowing crate (12 days before farrowing) until the second week postpartum. The effect of adding dietary fibre to the gestation diet on this transition was also evaluated.

During gestation, 16 primiparous sows (Large White × Landrace) were fed 2.4kg per day of a control (CON) diet (3.5 per cent crude fibre), or 2.9 kg per day of a high-fibre (HF) diet (12.8 per cent fibre). The daily allowance of NE was 24MJ in both treatments.

Twelve days before the expected parturition day (d–12), sows were moved into farrowing crates that were equipped with a computerised feeding device allowing the gestation and lactation diets to be supplied via two rewarded push buttons placed above the trough, until day 14 postpartum. The feeding transition was evaluated through the daily ratio of ingestion of the lactation diet. Feeding behaviour was measured through daily feed and energy intakes, number of daily meals, meal size, and the nycthemeral distribution of feeding activity.

Sows were weighed and backfat thickness was measured at the beginning and end of gestation and lactation. Piglets were weighed every week from birth until weaning.

The transition to the lactation diet occurred earlier in HF sows (P<0.05); the 50 per cent threshold of lactation diet ingestion was reached on day –8 and 12 in HF and CON sows, respectively.

Dietary treatment did not affect the feeding pattern, and all sows presented a diurnal feeding activity.

During lactation, there was an interaction (P<0.05) between the hour of the day and the dietary treatment for the distribution of pushes on the rewarded buttons, with pushes being more spread out throughout the day in CON sows compared with HF sows.

Variations in sow backfat thickness were not affected by dietary treatment but HF sows lost more BW during lactation (P<0.05). Growth of piglets was not affected by dietary treatment.

Guillemet and colleagues concluded that sows chose the lactation diet spontaneously on the week preceding parturition when they were fed a fibrous diet during gestation. This highlights the possible impact of such a gestation diet to promote early intake of the lactation diet.


Guillemet R., C. Guérin, F. Richard, J.Y. Dourmad and M. C. Meunier-Salaün. 2010. Feed transition between gestation and lactation is exhibited earlier in sows fed a high-fibre diet during gestation. J. Anim Sci. 2010. 88:2637-2647. doi:10.2527/jas.2009-2307

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