Milk production and nutritional requirements of modern sows (II)

In addition to amino acid intake, proper energy intake is essential for maximizing milk production in sows. Both the amount of and type of energy can influence milk production.

Wednesday 7 September 2011 (7 years 3 months 11 days ago)

Feeding management requirements for optimum milk production

Illustration of an automated feeder
Figure 1. Illustration of self feeder

In addition to amino acid intake (in previous article), proper energy intake is essential for maximizing milk production in sows. Both the amount of and type of energy can influence milk production. Several ways to increase feed intake have been evaluated in commercial sow production. Basic feeder design and feeding pattern have recently been evaluated in commercial conditions to evaluate methods to maximize feed intake and thus milk production.

Recently in the United States, various forms of self feeders have been evaluated in order to maximize feed intake. PIC has collaborated on various trials to determine the efficacy of newly designed self feeders in commercial systems. Although there exists various options within the industry, we have most extensively evaluated the INTaK Ad-Lib Lactation Feeding System. Commercial field research has demonstrated an improvement of 7 percent increase in feed intake compared with hand feeding systems, along with less labor required for feeding.

In addition to evaluation of self feeders, we have evaluated optimum feeding pattern for maximizing lactation intake in commercial systems. In a recent study, the following feeing patterns were evaluated with self feeding systems (Tables 6 and 7.; R. Kummer, PIC Symposium 2007).

Table 6. Evaluations of Various Lactation Feeding Patternsa

Day of lactation
Feeding treatment 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8+
1 1.8 kg 1.8 kg 2.7 kg 2.7 kg 3.6 kg 3.6 kg 4.5 kg 4.5 kg Full
2 1.8 kg 0.9 kg 1.4 kg 1.8 kg 2.3 kg 2.7 kg 3.2 kg 3.6 kg Full
3 1.8 kg 1.8 kg 2.7 kg 2.7 kg Full Full Full Full Full

Table 7. Response to Lactation Feeding Patternsa

Feeding curve
1 2 3
Sow performance
Post farrow Wt, kg 216 216 216
Wean Wt, kg 210 206 211
Weight Loss, kg 6.8b 9.3 c 6.1 b
Feed intake
0-10 days 4.16 3.39 4.39
1-19 days 5.17 b 4.75 c 5.28 b
Litter performance
Piglets started/sow 11.7 11.7 11.7
Piglets weaned/sow 10.82 10.72 10.82
Piglet weight initial, kg 1.63 1.66 1.66
Piglet weaning weight, kg 6.06 6.01 6.2
Litter gain/kg/day 2.52 2.45 2.58

aAdapted from Kummer, 2007. 200 PIC Camborough P1 and P2 sows.
b,cMeans with different superscripts differ, P<.05

Data from Tables 5 and 6, demonstrate the mild restriction for 3 days followed by full feeding from day 4 through the end of lactation resulted in increased feed intake and reduced body weight loss. Based on these data, the recommendation for feeding PIC sows is to scale feed at 1.8, 1.8, and 2.7 kg for days 0,1, and 2, respectively of lactation followed by ad-libitum access to feed. These data also more fully illustrate the potential for feed intake and milk production for PIC females in parities 1 and 2.

Bump feeding in late gestation

There is limited research data on increasing feed in late gestation. However it is common practice to increase feed by 0.5 to 1.0 KG the last 2 to 3 weeks of gestation to support the increased litter growth. When sows are in proper body condition bump feeding is recommended. However, if sows and gilts are over condition bump feeding is not recommended. With the increase in feed costs many producers are questioning the importance of bump feeding as it could save $3.00 to $5.00 per sow in feed costs.

A recent trial conducted by Shelton et al., 2009, used 108 PIC Camborough gilt and sows for a bump feeding trial. The researchers increased feed by 0.90 KG at day 90 of gestation or did not increase feed. The birth weight of pigs from gilt litters that were bump fed had increased (P < 0.01, Feed Level) weights. However there were no differences in birth weight from sows that were fed increased levels. The researchers conclude little response to bump feeding.

One area to point out is the amount of feed that was fed from day 35 to 90 of gestation. The table below shows that the sows were fed 2.60 KG per day of a corn-soybean meal diet. In most production systems sows are fed 2.0 KG from day 35 to 90 of a lower energy diet with wheat midds, soy hulls or DDGS. This may have caused some over conditioning.

If sows and gilts are being fed 1.8 to 2.0 KG per day in gestation then the recommendation is to bump feed at day 90. If gilts and sows are over conditioned then do not bump feed.
More research is needed to better obtain a conclusion.

Gilt Sow P <
Normal +0,90 Kg Normal +0,90 Kg Level x Parity
Gestation feed intake, d 35 2.1 2.1 2.6 2.6 -
Gestation feed intake, d 90 2.1 3.0 2.6 3.5 -
Total gestation feed intake, Kg 237.5 260.8 299.0 321.9 0.99
Gestation feed cost, $ 50.85 55.82 64.01 68.91 0.99
Total born 14.6 14.0 11.9 12.9 0.20
Pig birth weight, Kg 1.41 1.49 1.53 1.42 0.04
Overall litter weight gain, Kg 51.2 51.5 47.7 46.8 0.72

Added fat in lactation

This is another area of limited research. An abstract from the 2010 Midwest Animal Science meetings by Rosero et al., 2010 used 337 sows (PIC Camborough) in Oklahoma during the months of July to September with added fat levels of 0, 2, 4, and 6%. The fat source was from animal-vegetable blend.

The researchers reported when caloric intake was increased there were no beneficial effects on any measured criteria, except for improved litter gain in P3+ sows.

Another internal research trial was conducted with 1,020 PIC gilts and sows with two treatment levels of 0 and 5% added fat. The weaning weight from pigs that nursed from gilts and sows fed 5% added fat were 0.18 KG heavier (P < 0.001). However the difference in weight was not maintained at 22 weeks after weaning. There were no differences in sow performance reported.


The modern sow has a tremendous capacity for milk production given proper nutrition and feeding management. Milk production levels of over 11 kg/day can be achieved in commercial situations. To achieve these levels, specific needs for lysine and energy intake must be achieved. These levels are well defined for PIC females and are supported by commercial research. This paper serves as a guide for nutritional and feeding management for PIC sows.

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