An extra emphasis on sow feeding in early gestation can help to increase piglet vitality. This result was recently communicated by Dutch animal nutrition cooperative ForFarmers.
The theme of piglet vitality has become increasingly important in the Dutch swine industry – and piglet weight is usually used as an indication for piglet vitality. Among piglets weighing 800 g or less at birth, mortality is about 60%. Of piglets between 800 g and 1 kg, another 25% will die prematurely.
A piglet foetus is created during the first 35 days of gestation, as from day 35 it is mainly growth that needs to happen. Hence, for optimal piglet development in this phase the presence of essential nutrients is key.
Essential amino acids for instance are of paramount importance. Wilfried Goldewijk, animal nutrition specialist, ForFarmers, said: “It is vital to first build the right roads to reach the end target without meeting any obstacles.”
He continued, “The foetus' feeding infrastructure is being created by the placenta, as the placenta regulates blood flow to the foetus. Hence it is important to provide sows with the right ingredients for a proper placenta development.”
Amino acids like glutamine, arginine and valine help developing both placenta and uterus. Sows can only create a very limited amount of these amino acids themselves, but still these amino acids are not to be missed in this process. This explains why addition through sow feed is important.
In addition, vitamins have their role to play. Vitamin K takes care of the correct development of blood vessels – which are important when a placenta is being developed. The placenta transports nutrients from the sow's blood to the foetus.
There is a difference between pig production sites as to how much sows need to be fed in early gestation and to what extent a special feed will be rewarding. This may depend on sow condition and piglet vitality on the farm. Birth weight is a good way to discover piglet vitality – and decide on a feeding strategy.
The cooperative indicates that applying special feeds for sows in early gestation, a 5% reduction in lighter piglet numbers (< 900 g) was observed, in comparison to conventional gestation feeding. This translated into 0.5 piglet/sow/year extra.