Move to Group Housing Heightens Importance of Individualized Sow Nutrition

CANADA - A Nutritionist with Gestal suggests the move to group housing of gestation sows has heightened the importance of the ability manage feed intake for each sow individually, writes Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 28 February 2017
clock icon 3 minute read

The latest update of Canada's Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs, released in 2014, commits the pork industry to move to group sow housing.

Dr Hyatt Frobose, a Nutritionist with Gestal, observes the grand challenge in group housing during gestation is that sows would generally like to eat a lot more feed than they need during pregnancy and this results in aggression around the feeding area if it's allowed to happen.

Dr Hyatt Frobose-Gestal:

Some of the major challenges that exist in my opinion within the industry are around properly managing body condition of sows and particularly gilts prior to their first farrowing.

We often times apply general principles rather than applying individual feeding curves or properly targeting sows individual needs, particularly when it comes to over feeding sows in late gestation which can translate to lower lactation feed intake, higher percentage of stillborns and a greater percentage of sow body weight loss during lactation, which ultimately results in her having a longer wean to estrus interval.

On the same token, if we provide too much feed at the wrong time in gestation, we can create additional feed wastage which, when feed costs are high, that obviously has a cost to the farm's bottom line.

And underfeeding sows also creates problems from additional aggression in gestation, particularly in group housing as well as improper body condition which can result in lower productivity, lower ovulation rates and thereby sows that can develop sores, develop lameness and ultimately get culled out of the herd more quickly.

Dr Frobose notes a first parity sow will require additional nutrients because she's still growing while developing her pregnancy where as a fifth or sixth parity sow will have a lower maintenance requirement.

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