Revolutionize farrowing, pig livability

Mar 07, 2024

Successful farrowing and pig livability are vital for the overall profitability and sustainability of swine production. However numerous challenges can impede those goals, such as farrowing difficulties, postpartum disorders, reduced milk production and piglet mortality. Traditional approaches often fall short of addressing those issues comprehensively, so alternative solutions are needed.

Nutritionally, producers can help provide the sow with solutions to help her mobilize the necessary nutrients to offset some of those challenges. Calcium is one nutrient that is required during late gestation and lactation because it’s used to maintain fetal skeletal development, milk production and muscle contractions during parturition. Feeding methods that maximize calcium stores and utilization are vital to aid in challenges around farrowing and piglet survival.

The dairy cattle industry has developed a feeding method known as a dietary cation-anion difference diet. Dietary cation-anion difference acidifies the cow’s bloodstream, which triggers the release of calcium from the bone into the bloodstream for the cow to utilize. That mechanism is especially important around calving when the demand for calcium is extremely great. The same thing occurs in sows. If sows are not able to maintain blood calcium during farrowing, it can result in prolonged farrowing time, which may increase the rate of piglet mortality.

Building on that knowledge, researchers conducted a study investigating the manipulation of dietary calcium and electrolyte balance in periparturient sows, with the goal of promoting uterine muscle contraction and inducing a mild compensatory metabolic acidosis.

The trial was conducted by Dr. Andrew Bents, Hubbard swine technical veterinarian, at a 300-sow farrow-to-finish operation. On Day 112 of gestation, 60 gilts and sows were transferred to the farrowing house, blocked by parity and randomly assigned to one of two pre-farrow dietary treatment groups. One group received a control diet consisting of six pounds of a corn-soybean meal-based lactation diet containing 1.05 percent standardized ileal digestible lysine and 18 percent crude protein, while the other group received the same diet with an additional 25 gram of Triad top-dressed. The Triad was top-dressed in the morning, starting with Day 112 of gestation and continuing until farrowing. Sows fed Triad were treated for an average of three days. On Day 114 of gestation, samples of blood and urine were collected to assess urine pH, urine bacterial load and blood urea nitrogen levels. Additionally litter performance was recorded. The group’s average parity and body condition scores were 3.7 ± 2.6 and 3.3 ± 0.8 respectively.

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