The basis to produce pigs is founded in the service – and gestation unit and the management skills are fully challenged, as there is a need for craftsmanship, knowledge, systematics and above all a good overview.
Correct and adequate feeding of sows ensure an optimal ovulation, to ensure the optimal number of fetuses and to ensure as little weight loss as possible during the lactation period, so the sow will be fit for the next litter of pigs.
From weaning until mating, the sow must be heavily fed (4.5 to 5.5kg of feed per day) to ensure good heat and ovulation and after mating, the sows are assessed and divided into three groups, which are assigned different feed levels in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
|The Sow’s Condition|
|Days after mating||Kg of feed per sow per day|
The feeding level during the first four weeks after mating does not affect the number of pigs born or their birth weight, provided that the feed allocation is between 2.4 to 3.8kg per day, as feeding less than 2.4kg per day increases the variability in birth weight. Therefore, during this period, sows must regain weight lost during the previous lactation, however, sows must be allocated at least the amount of feed corresponding to their maintenance needs, in order to avoid increasing the number of small fetuses.
A sow of 150kg needs 1.5kg of feed per day for maintenance and the need increases by 0.2kg for every additional 25kg. In the first four to five gestation periods, the sow gains approximately 20kg body weight per gestation period. To gain just one kilo of weight, a sow must eat about 3.2kg of feed per day.
The housing temperature also influences how much maintenance feed the sow needs and in general a lean sow needs around 0.28kg more feed per day every time the temperature drops by five degrees (below 20 degrees); in cases of fat sows, they need approximately 0.18kg of extra feed per day. Also, it is important to point out that the amount of feed required for maintenance can increase considerably if there are flows of air, or moisture, in the living areas.
After the 12th week of gestation, the litter weight can be positively affected when the sows’ feed allowance is increased to 3.5kg of feed per day, as the sow must use feed for fetal growth as well as udder growth and incipient colostrum production. Experiments have shown that extra feed after the 12th week of gestation increases the average birth weight by 30 grams per pig and increases the sow’s condition, so the weight loss during the lactation period is reduced.
Right after farrowing, the sow should be given approximately 3.5kg of feed per day and the amount of feed must be increased according to the sow’s milk yield, to around 6.5kg of feed after the first week of lactation. Then the sow must be fed according to the approximate appetite, but the feed must not be raised faster than the sow can keep up. The goal is for the sows to absorb an average of at least 180kg of feed at four weeks of lactation and preferably close to 200kg.