First Lactation is Key to Sow Performance

UK - Gilts that suffer a productivity drop in their second litter risk a continued trend of poorer performance in later parities.
calendar icon 21 December 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

Dutch pig expert Professor Bas Kemp gave his advice on how to manage the issue at BPEX’s Two-Tonne Sow (2TS) events as part of the industry’s campaign to increase physical performance.

‘Second litter drop syndrome’ is related to weight loss during a gilt’s first lactation – a situation which arises when the gilt still needs to grow, but at the same time has to produce milk for her litter. Bas highlighted the important factors to improve reproductive performance in the first lactation. “The feeding strategy should aim to prevent drops in feed intake. The best way to do this is to gradually increase feed intake from 2kg on the day of farrowing up to an ad libitum supply by the end of the first week.

“It is very important that gilts are not over fed in early lactation. Feeding levels can also be too high in late pregnancy. There are indications that high feeding levels, resulting in fat sows at the end of pregnancy, can reduce mammary gland development.”

More highly concentrated diets may also be an option, but Bas warned that extra fat in the diet can lead to increased fat content in the milk and fatter piglets, rather than gilt growth and improved condition.

“Optimal water intake is also key: if sows do not drink they will not eat either. So water should be supplied ad libitum and nipple output checked regularly: it should be 2 to 2.5 litres per minute. There is a close relationship between sow water intake and piglet growth.”

Producers should also try to keep a stable temperature below or at 18-20ºC for the sow. This can be difficult as there is a compromise between the sow and the piglets’ needs. Solutions include providing supplemental heating for piglet nests and, at high temperatures, providing drip or snout skin cooling.

‘Repair’ of second litter syndrome is also possible, to some extent, after weaning. Producers can try ‘skipping’ a heat for gilts in lower condition and a progesterone analogue such as Regumate® can also be used.

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