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Better Nutrition in Pregnancy Improves Piglet Health, Sow Longevity

by 5m Editor
24 January 2013, at 9:50am

CANADA - Research conducted by the University of Alberta has shown altering the diet of the sow during the last third of pregnancy will result in healthier piglets and increased longevity of the sow herd, writes Bruce Cochrane.

As part of research being conducted on behalf of Swine Innovation Porc, the University of Alberta has been examining the nutritional requirements of the sow herd.

Dr Ron Ball, a professor emeritus in swine nutrition with the University of Alberta, observes the physiology of the sow changes dramatically during late pregnancy.

Dr Ron Ball-University of Alberta

The sow actually becomes a totally different animal.

She is one kind of animal up until about day 75 or 85 of pregnancy when you only need to feed the sow for maintenance.

She doesn't really need to grow but in the last section of pregnancy she's growing many piglets very fast and she's actually a completely different animal from a nutritional point of view.

She requires a very different balance of amino acids, a different type of protein, in late gestation.

That's because the amino acid requirements of a fetus are totally different than the amino acid requirements of a sow for maintenance.

She also needs a lot more energy so that she can grow those 15 or 16 piglets up to maturity.

You can not feed the same diet and just feed more of it in the last third of gestation.

It has to be a new diet, different amino acid balance, higher energy, more available vitamins.

We need to move to phase feeding of sows just the same way that we moved to phase feeding of grow finish pigs 15 to 20 years ago.


Dr Ball says improved sow nutrition will result in stronger, more even litters and better piglet survival.

He notes, many sows only remain in the breeding herd for three or four litters but with better feeding we could get at least one more cycle which would have tremendous economic implications.

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