Today’s sow produces three more pigs per litter and 40% heavier piglets than four decades ago. A sow needs to produce an adequate amount of milk to sustain the growth of a larger and leaner litter. Nutritional requirements of the sow are heavily influenced by phase of production and parity. Efficient sow herd management and continuous updates to the nutritional program are required to ensure high levels of sow productivity and producer profitability. Phytogenic feed additives have consistently proven to be beneficial in increasing the feed intake of sows during lactation and providing intestinal relief by preventing oxidative stress and reducing inflammatory processes.
Economics of sow retention and lactation feed intake
Targeting 70% retention of the gilts entering the reproductive pool and retaining them in the herd through at least the fourth parity will optimize profitability. Sow margins are optimized later in life when reaching the highest return on investment (ROI) between the fourth and seventh parity (Figure 1). However, on many commercial units 40% to 50% of sows are culled before reaching their third or fourth parity.
Figure 1. Impact of sow retention on return on investment.
Source: Adapted from Pinilla and Lecznieski, 2010
Sow retention is influenced by multiple factors, including genetics, nutritional programs, gilt development and health status. From a nutritional perspective, suboptimal intake of amino acids and/ or energy during lactation have been associated with prolonged wean-to-estrus interval, subsequently reduced litter size and lighter litter weights at weaning along with lower retention rates.