Balanced Feed Intake Improves Gilt Health While Maintaining Milk Production Capability

Dec 04, 2023

A sow lactation biologist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada reports that by balancing feed intake pork producers can preserve the health and longevity of the gilt while maintaining her ability to produce milk.

Mammary development occurs at three stages in the life of a pig, from 90 days of age to puberty, at 90 days of gestation to farrowing and during lactation.
Research aimed at stimulating mammary development to boost milk production is highlighted as part of Swine Innovation Porc's 2022-2023 annual report.

Dr. Chantal Farmer, a research scientist in sow lactation biology with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Sherbrooke, mentions in previous research feed intake was reduced by 20 percent from 90 days of age to puberty and resulted in greatly reduced mammary development at puberty.

Quote-Dr. Chantal Farmer-Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada:

Now a days we have gilts that grow really fast and these fast-growing gilts have leg problems that reduce longevity in the herd so producers say, can I do some feed restrictions to slow down the growth rates of these gilts and keep them longer in the herd?We've done a project where we've done again the 20 percent feed restriction of prepubertal gilts, but we've also done a 10 percent feed restriction or we've added 25 percent fibre in diets, which diluted energy intake by five percent and when we looked at the growth rates of the piglets in the following lactation there were no differences due to treatment effects.

So right now, what I can tell producers is it seems that 25 percent fibre addition, which will dilute the energy in the ration between 90 days of age to puberty, is fine.It will not inhibit mammary development.And the other point is, it's not the percent feed restriction that seems important but the amount of feed eaten.

If we restrict feed intake to 2.7 kilos per day that will be fine, even in that critical period from 90 days to puberty.It will not decrease substantially the milk yield after.It has no effect so, if you can restrict feed intake to no less than 2.7 kilos per day, then you're fine.

Information on this research can be accessed at by clicking the link to the 2022-2023 annual report.

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