- Mycotoxin Risk
- Gut Performance
- Mycotoxin Risk
- Gut Performance
Guide to Pig Management: Lactation (Part 4):
Giving piglets a healthy start is key to ensuring piglet viability as well as securing the future of the herd. Consequently, the nutrition and management of the lactating sow is crucial.08.07.2021
• To produce high-quality colostrum and milk, the sow must have access to enough fresh, clean water.
• Piglets need to drink at least 250 ml of colostrum to ensure viability after birth.
• Creep feed should be introduced to the piglets on day five to induce the production of digestive enzymes in the gut, as well as to ensure there are sufficient nutrients for the whole litter.
Nutrition and management play a vital role during lactation. The key to supporting piglet viability and securing the future productivity of the herd is to ensure piglets receive 250 ml of colostrum. To produce enough colostrum for the whole litter, the sow must be provided with sufficient nutrients via the lactation diet, as well as a supply of clean, fresh water.
Adequate colostrum uptake is essential for the piglet as it:
- provides high levels of nutrients
- protects the gut from pathogens
- starts and drives immune competence
Colostrum is also called 'food for life'. A minimum of 250 ml of colostrum per piglet has been shown to ensure viability after birth (Quesnel et al., 2012; Figure 1) and to have a long-lasting effect on general health.
A minimum of 250 ml of colostrum per piglet ensures viability after birth.
In the farrowing unit, temperatures should not exceed 24 °C. The temperature in the piglet nest and accommodation will become less important once the piglets have managed to ingest sufficient colostrum and milk.
If the number of piglets in the litter exceeds the number of teats available on the sow, there is a risk that the weaker and later-born piglets will not ingest enough colostrum. Split suckling is advisable in these circumstances.
Sufficient water must be provided to meet the growing demand for milk production by the sow.
Cross-fostering must be carried out according to the principle 'as much as necessary, as little as possible'. It is better to avoid cross-fostering altogether on commercial farms to prevent pathogen shedding. This has been made possible by using RescueCup technology.
Sufficient water must be provided to meet the growing demand for milk production by the sow. Sows need approximately 2.5 liters of water to produce 1 liter of milk. As milk production is 10–14 liters a day at peak lactation, a nursing sow should drink a minimum of 25 liters of water a day. Unrestricted access to water also enables the sow to consume sufficient feed, which is essential during lactation.
Lactating sows, with their large litters, have a high demand for nutrients. These demands can be met partly by increasing the density of the diet, but mostly by increasing feed intake. The easiest way to increase lactation feed intake is to increase the number of meals per day. Feed intake is key in preventing excessive body weight loss and maintaining litter growth rate. Excessive body weight loss would leave the sow in a catabolic state at the end of lactation. This would compromise subsequent ovulation and oocyte maturation, with a further risk to embryo implantation and variability in birth weight.
Feed intake is key in preventing excessive body weight loss in sows and maintaining growth rate in the litter.
Reducing particle size to improve feed efficiency is not recommended in sows, as it can cause stomach ulceration. Overfeeding can result in estrus onset during lactation, especially if the litter is small. A useful rule of thumb is to target a daily feed intake of 2 kg per sow (depending on body weight) and 0.5 kg per piglet.
Total sow feed intake and body weight, and characteristics of the litter (such as litter size and growth rate), should be considered when formulating a lactation diet. Amino acid balance, energy sources, mineral and vitamin levels, calcium: phosphorus (Ca: P) ratio and electrolyte balance should all be optimized to achieve the highest levels of milk production.
Many farmers face the problem of inadequate feed intake by sows in the farrowing room. The amount of feed should be increased gradually, accompanied by a continuous supply of fresh, clean water. A good solution is to maintain a constant level of water in the feed trough, so the feed mixes with the water to become semi-liquid in consistency, which promotes good intake by the sow.
Insufficient water or feed intake during lactation results in insufficient, poor quality milk, which in turn translates directly to lower weaning weights and weaker piglets.
Creep feed should be provided from the fifth day of life, so the piglets start to become familiar with feed, and enzyme production is induced in the digestive tract. Piglets compete for milk, so supplementing the milk with creep feed reduces fighting and ensures adequate nutrient intake. Creep feed should be provided in small amounts, just enough to remain in the feeder for 2–4 hours. As creep feed is high in proteins and easily fermentable, fresh feed should be provided 2–3 times a day.
The most notable effects of mycotoxins on monogastrics include a reduction in feed intake, liver toxicity and immunosuppression, all of which are a serious threat to the sow and piglets. Mitigating mycotoxin contamination in the diet is essential. Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) inhibit milk production, but Mycofix® can adsorb a large proportion of LPS and eliminate them from the excreta.
The Biotronic® product line can help improve water quality, feed hygiene and feed intake, and increase milk production.
Digestarom® encourages high feed intake, mostly by improving protein digestibility, the most exothermic process in the body. This is especially important in warmer months, as it helps to reduce thermal discomfort.
Quesnel, H., Farmer, C. and Devillers, N. (2012). Colostrum intake: influence on piglet performance and factors of variation. Livestock Science 146(2-3). 105-114.