Feeding sows ad lib during lactation results in higher feed intake, boosting piglet weaning weights and improving reproductive performance in the subsequent parity, says Dr. Malachy Young, a nutritionist with Gowans Feed Consulting.
“Advances in litter size and changes in the sow’s genetics have created new challenges in feeding lactating sows, which generally have lower voluntary intake and are leaner with greater body size at maturity,” he says. “Though most producers agree that maximal intake throughout lactation is the correct goal, considerable debate exists on the best method to achieve that goal.”
Traditionally, feed has been given according to a scale, which gradually increases as lactation progresses. But Young points out this leads to considerable variation in feed intake, especially in the first week after farrowing.
“This pattern of feeding may reduce sow feed intake in the first week of lactation by 15 per cent or more compared with a more aggressive system of feeding,” he notes. “Restricting feed intake throughout or during any week of lactation will result in a higher risk of sows being culled for anoestrus than sows having a rapid increase in lactation feed intake.”
In addition, sows which have an earlier peak in feed intakes have higher overall lactation feed intake, he adds. This extra feed intake achieved with a more aggressive feeding strategy will increase milk yield, piglet growth rate and reduce weight loss in lactation.