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Nutrition key to reproductive performance of hyper-prolific sows

Finding ways to boost feed intake in hyper-prolific sows is key to ensuring they continue to meet their lifetime reproductive potential.

Writing in Pig International, nutritionist Ioannis Mavromichalis said sows producing large litters have different nutritional needs than those producing fewer piglets.

Without increasing their intake of feed and nutrients, hyper-prolific sows risk not having enough milk to feed piglets, limiting growth and survival rates.

What’s more, sows forced to use their own fat and protein reserves to produce milk will go on to produce smaller litters in the future, potentially reducing farm productivity.

In general, Mavromichalis said a sow must consume about 2 to 3kg of feed per day for its maintenance needs, and about 0.5kg of feed per day, per piglet for milk production.

“For example, a 200kg sow nursing 10 piglets should consume approximately 6-7kg feed per day on average during a typical 21-day lactation period,” he wrote.

“In contrast, the same sow nursing 15 piglets requires almost 10kg feed per day to cope with the increased milk production.

“If sows consume less feed compared to their needs, then they compensate by first catabolizing body fat and second by reducing milk production.”

Studies have shown that the more body fat and protein a sow loses during lactation, the longer it takes to return to estrus after weaning.

In addition, subsequent litter sizes tend to be smaller, with a reduction in one piglet for each 10% of body fat lost, he added.

To maximize the performance of hyper-prolific sows and their offspring, Mavromichalis said farmers should find ways to increase feed intake, such as by feeding a high-fiber diet or allowing ad-lib feeding two weeks before farrowing to give time for the stomach to expand.

Feeding lactating sows as often as possible — preferably three times a day and during cooler periods — ensuring feed troughs were clean and giving access to plentiful fresh water could also help, he added.

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