More Milk Production for Better Piglet Performance


Modern sows with adequate genetics and nutrition can produce approximately 10 to 12 kilograms of milk per day. Piglets’ growth rate during the pre-weaning period relies considerably on the quantity and quality of the milk production. Sow nutrition during gestation and lactation will influence the litter size and weight at farrowing and weaning, with a direct impact on animal health and breeder’s profitability. Up to 30% of early piglet mortalities can be attributed to a lack of adequate nutrition that could be due to inadequate sow milk production. In order to maximize milk production in sows, several factors have to be take into account. The list below provides a number of tips to reach this goal.

Tips for sow milk production

  • Correct water intake
  • Maintain appropriate temperature
  • Maintain body condition
  • Support feed intake
  • Address inflammation (engergy loss)
  • Use Digestarom®

Figure 1. Digestarom® reduces weight loss during lactation.
Source: Khon Kaen University, Thailand, 2008 (Trial 286)

Figure 2. Lower urea content in sow’s milk with Digestarom®.
Source: Slov. Center of Agriculture, Nitra, 2007

Coping with greater reproduction demands

In general, sow farms have been increasing total born and are weaning large litters with heavier pigs. With litter size continuing to improve and lactation length increasing to around 21 to 28 days, milk production must rise to meet this increasing demand. Studies have often shown that sows’ weight loss has a negative effect on future lactation results, litter size and farrowing rate. In addition, low parity sows are expected to gain weight and grow over the first two parities. It is important to maintain the body condition of the sow at weaning, since it influences wean to estrus interval, number of services per conception and subsequent litter size. Furthermore, sow body condition in early gestation has an impact on heterogeneity of piglet birth weight as well. The success of Digestarom® in improving daily milk yield per sow is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Digestarom® improves milk yield.
Source: Khon Kaen University, Thailand, 2008 (Trial 286)

Addressing inflammation

The economic loss through lower feed intake, decreased nutrient digestibility and high energy requirement of inflammatory processes resulting from different diseases can take a toll on sows. One study noted a productivity loss amounting to 10% of the nutrient use during an acute phase immune response: resources which otherwise would have gone towards performance. Other researchers have estimated the nutrient cost of ongoing inflammatory processes to be 1.3 times that of maintenance or a daily cost of 0.27 g ideal protein per kg body weight.

The antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties of phytogenics can re­­­­­duce inflammation along the gastrointestinal tract (GIT). The somatic cell count can provide an indication of the level of activity of inflammatory processes in the mammary tissues. Figure 4 shows that Digestarom® fed sows had a lower somatic cell count –improved milk quality— over the course of two weeks.

Figure 4. Improved Milk Quality.
Source: Slov. Center of Agriculture, Nitra, 2007


Lactating sows at high ambient temperatures reduce their feed intake as part of the response to regulate body heat production, thereby losing more weight during lactation. With a comfort temperature (Tc) of around 15 degrees, a room temperature of 25°C (effective critical temperature of lactating sows) will reduce the feed intake of a 200 kg lactating sow by 2 kg.

According to reports, each 1°C increase in ambient temperature above 20°C decreased daily feed intake of sows by 0.17 kg. (For more on overcoming heat stress through nutrition, see Science & Solutions #20.)

Water intake

Water is important element in animal feeding, because on the one hand it is used to excrete metabolism wastage via urine, on the other it is needed for growth, digestion and milk production since it is the major component of milk.

Water intake can be very low (10 liter/day) in some sows during the first 24 hours following parturition. After this period of transition, water intake increases gradually to reach 20 to 35 liters per day during lactation. Increased water intake can reduce relative body weight loss of sows and is positively correlated with the weaning weight of piglets.

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