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Research Released On Sow Health And Milk Production

Recent research shows the amount of food a sow eats during pregnancy affects how much milk she will produce to feed her babies.

The research was done by Dr. Chantal Farmer of Agriculture and Agri-food Canada’s Sherbrooke Research and Development Centre.

Sows often do not produce enough milk to sustain the growth of all their piglets. This is important because piglet litters can be very large.

Dr. Farmer’s study shows that ensuring piglets have enough milk is key to healthy growth. It can be a challenge for sows that have large litters. The nutrition of a sow can greatly affect gestation and lactation.

“Milk production is not affected later in life, even if the amount of feed is increased. Hyper-prolific sow lines are great for the industry but it is necessary to feed all those piglets, too,” explained Dr. Farmer.

The average sow produces 10 piglets as opposed to nine in 2014.

Improving hog feed management can help and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs suggests that a 300-sow farrow-to-finish operation selling 6000 market pigs would need approximately 342 tonnes/year of feed.

“There is a relationship between the condition of the sow while pregnant and the health of piglets afterwards,” said Dr. Farmer. “We see this in their fatness; the amount of milk produced, and milk quality.”

Sows are often fed more during lactation to increase the amount of milk they produce. The results showed that for ultimate milk production, feeding sows as much during pregnancy as during lactation can ensure sufficient milk production for large litters.