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Fiber

Dr Ioannis Mavromichalis
Fiber in sow diets! Now, this is a widely debated issue and it is my intention only to provide a cross reference drawn from the most widely accepted 'norms'. I expect this to raise a lot of questions and why not, a constructive debate!

First of all, let me say that even the word fiber has no single interpretation among nutritionists. Is it crude fiber, dietary fiber, or something in between these two extremes?
For all practical reasons, we will remain with the most commonly used term, crude fiber, which although it does not include all such compounds that could potentially impart a 'fiber' effect, it nevertheless is a widely available figure in most nutrition books and it is well understood by nutritionists and producers alike.
Adult breeding sows
Right! So, how much fiber sows need? Adult breeding sows have the digestive capacity to ingest and digest quite large amounts of fiber, but for practical reasons, we certainly want to limit this.
So, starting from lactating sows, from which we anticipate maximal feed intake, crude fiber concentration should be limited to around 3-4%. This, of course, may cause digestive upsets, namely constipation, but it is here where the use of chemical and/or natural laxatives should be used to maximum benefit.
Gestating sows
It is quite the opposite in gestating sows. Here, we want to limit feed intake to prevent fatness and as such gestating sows are usually offered a quantity of feed that barely covers their hunger, in other words satiety is not achieved.
Thus, it is quite beneficial to offer high-crude fiber diets to gestating sows. In limited-fed animals, crude fiber should be around 6-8%, but in ad libitum fed animals, crude fiber concentration can be as high as 12-15%.
And, of course, in this case, laxatives are not needed, which might be an obvious conclusion, but I have seen a fair number of gestating diets with high fiber and a strong laxative! 
Young developing gilts
Finally, we should evaluate the 'needs' for crude fiber for young developing gilts. Again, we should split them into limit-fed versus ad libitum-fed animals. In the first case, diets should contain around 3-5% fiber, whereas in the second case crude fiber can be as high as 12-15%.
A word of caution is needed here. As genetic maturity is quite variable among commercial breeds and growth/development targets are different from farm to farm, gilt diets should be always custom-made to match required growth and thus, crude fiber concentration should also be adjusted accordingly. So, a single size does not fit all, at least for gilts!
In the next installment of this topic, we shall examine sources of fiber suitable for sow diets…

8 comments

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    JORGE GALLARDO

    DEAR IOANNIS,

    MAYBE ONE DAY WE CAN TALK AGAIN ABOUT RAW FIBER CONCENTRATES LIKE ARBOCEL.

    WILL BE A PLEASURE ONCE MORE.

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    Mike Varley

    A former colleague of mine at the Rowett Research Institute in Scotland worked with very high fibre diets for gestating sows and sat the extrme used grass silage for this. It turns out that even with grass silage, well made, the sows oculd still eat about 1.25 x M through gestation - in other words quite adequate. I wonder in the present feed price climate, there is scope for reserrecting this type of technology !! ??

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    Mike Varley

    Grass Silage for dry sows can deliver about 1.25 x M through gestation. If I was a pig farmer with high prices as they are now- I might be tempted top re-visit this technology

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    Ioannis Goumberis

    Why dont we keep the CF limit in lactate sows up to 4-5%, to avoid constipation.There is enough place for plus wheat bran.

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    Dr Lee from Malaysia

    Hi Dr Ioannis, thanks for enlighten me about the sow's fiber info.How about the growing crude fiber level esp. in starter phase? I ve seen some farmers tend to reduce the level for better manure management.What is your opinion?

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    Ioannis Mavromichalis

    Michael, I think small(er) farmers are already looking for such alternative energy-fiber sources, but the competition from ruminants is expected to be not insignificant...Of course, for large(r) operations, the difficulties in handling such bulky ingredients on daily basis might exclude their use completely...





    Ioannis, this should be fine as long as your lactating sows consume enough feed…What is your weaning age and weight? Do your piglets at 21 days of age weigh on average 6.5 kg? If not, then your sows and piglets do not achieve even their commercial potential.





    Lee, in healthy young pigs, low-fiber diets usually increase feed intake and growth. In piglets with digestive problems, low-fiber diets usually aggravate scouring and/or reduce recuperation time. In growing-finishing pigs, the optimal fiber level is a function of energy cost and animal inherent appetite.

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    Ogbonna bethel

    pls doc,in Nigeria crude fiber in sows diet can be as high as 18-20%due to high use of crop residues thus compromising amount of energy in the diet.Are there commercil endogeneous enzymes toreduse the fiber level and boosting energy level in these diets?

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    Ioannis Mavromichalis

    Ogbonna, even if you use a cellulase, the amount of released energy will never be high enough to counterbalance the extremely high fiber level you use. Such a diet, and I think you´re referring to a lactation diet, can only benefit from the addition of oil or fat.

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