What are the risks to the productivity of the sow of insufficient consumption ?
An insufficient production of milk is likely to increase the risk of piglet mortality under the sow (wasting, crushing) thereby impacting most of, or the entire litter. As a result, weaned piglets can end up being fewer, lighter and weaker. A good start in lactation generally ensures better piglet performance after weaning has occurred.
Sows' insufficient feed intake will also impact their breeding performance after weaning. When this happens, sows will compensate for this deficit by drawing upon their own reserves. Excessive mobilisation of lipid and protein supplies during the milking period may directly impact their upcoming breeding cycles. This will result in a longer weaning to oestrus interval (ovulation rate), a decreased farrowing rate (embryonic survival), and ultimately, smaller litters. Such declines of their reproductive performance will cause higher culling rates, especially early ones.
What should be done to optimise sows’ feed intake in the difficult lactation phase?
Upon farrowing, the objective is to reach a maximum level of feed intake by guaranteeing a good feeding start and therefore a good start in lactation. This will also result in maximising their production of milk. With increasing litter sizes, the sow's milk production is becoming a key factor in the performance of the farm.
- The concept of quality feed must supply the nutrients sufficient for the needs of gilts and multiparous sows. In order to optimise sows’ feed intake, additional ingredients can also be incorporated in the feed: ingredients enhancing feed palatability and solutions especially designed to valorise the ingested feed and to limit the oxidative stress – the oxidative stress is caused by a high mobilisation of body reserves and / or higher temperatures. All these efforts should benefit the sow and their piglets.
- In addition, the sow’s body condition in the gestation phase should be monitored so that energy supplies stay sufficient and appetite remains stimulated upon farrowing.
- Easy access to water is also crucial for ensuring successful milk production. A sow that doesn’t drink enough will definitely not eat sufficiently. A sufficient amount of water should therefore be provided, both in terms of quantity and quality.
- Feed presentation: it is better to choose pellets or crumble instead of meal, or wet feed instead of a dry one.
- Feed management: meal delivery should be increased up to 3 times a day instead of just twice. These meals should be provided early in the morning rather than late in the afternoon, especially in the event of high temperatures.
Remember that a higher feed intake allows for increased milk production and the ability to wean one extra piglet.
This approach is far from being exhaustive. Whatever your sows' characteristics (parity, genetics) and their living context (climate, feeding system) our professionals are here to provide you advice and offer solutions on improving your lactating sows’ feed intake. For more information, please do not hesitate to contact the TECHNA Group's experts!