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Assessing the performance of lactating sows fed with two different organic diets

Low-protein organic diets can achieve performance standards in lactating sows with small litters but not in large litter.

Thursday 8 November 2018 (7 days ago)
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Organic agriculture has been growing rapidly throughout Europe during the last decades. However, in pig production organic diets are frequently deficient in their essential amino acid content, as most organic farms cannot produce the required high-quality protein-rich feedstuffs. The objective of the present study was to examine the effects of two different lactation diets on the reproductive performance of lactating sows over up to 4 consecutive lactation periods. It was hypothesized that reproductive performance of sows would be better when feeding the diet with less home-grown components and greater protein content, than when feeding the low-protein diet. A total of 36 sows were allotted into one of two dietary treatments: a high-protein organic diet completed with a higher content of purchased components and a low-protein organic diet prepared with a greater content of home-grown components.

Sows fed with the low-protein organic diet showed no negative effect on their performance, moreover, their average feed intake was high (7.4 and 6.9 kg/d for high-protein and low-protein diets, respectively), and their total live weight loss was within an acceptable range. The average litter consisted of 7.7 (high-protein diet) and 8.4 (low-protein diet) piglets at weaning, weighing 12.0 and 11.3 kg, respectively. In litters with 10 or more weaned piglets, sows fed the low-protein organic diet showed a lower feed intake and their weight loss was greater during the first two weeks postpartum as compared with high-protein diet sows. Blood metabolites did not indicate increased protein mobilization, but greater concentrations of non-esterified fatty acids and blood urea in sows fed the high-protein organic diet were interpreted as signs of increased amino acid breakdown, especially in litters of 10 or more piglets.

Feeding mainly home-grown components and a low-protein organic diet to lactating sows with rather small litters was attainable without substantially impairing performance. However, sows with larger litters responded with a decreased feed intake to the low-protein diet, for which subsequent reproduction and performance may be negatively affected if used over several reproductive cycles. Piglet performance was not affected by dietary treatment of the sows.

Weissensteiner, R., L. Baldinger, W. Hagmüller, and W. Zollitsch. 2018. Effects of two 100% organic diets differing in proportion of home-grown components and protein concentration on performance of lactating sows. Livestock Science.214: 211-218. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.livsci.2018.06.006

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