Vol. 22, No.

9 September 2000

CE

Refereed Peer Review

FOCAL POINT # Management can use a simple
method to prevent energy deficiency in lactating sows.

Feeding Management During Sow Lactation
Kansas State University

KEY FACTS
I Energy intake during lactation affects subsequent fertility in early-weaned sows. I A lactating sow’s need for dietary lysine depends on energy intake. I The best way to increase energy intake is to increase the total feed intake. I The feed intake of lactating sows can be verified from feed deliveries. I Simple methods can be followed to increase the feed intake of lactating sows.

Steve S. Dritz, DVM, PhD Mike D. Tokach, PhD Robert D. Goodband, PhD Jim L. Nelssen, PhD
ABSTRACT: The scientific evidence is clear that the energy intake of sows should be maximized during lactation. However, swine farm personnel often do not provide enough dietary energy to lactating sows. This article briefly reviews the scientific evidence, provides case studies in support of maximizing energy intake during lactation, and describes a simple way to ensure that energy intake is maximized during this period.

T

he optimum feeding patterns for lactating sows continue to be debated among veterinarians. However, research clearly shows that restricting feed, protein, or energy intake during any period of lactation will reduce milk production, decrease litter weaning weight, and impair subsequent reproductive performance.1–5 The adverse influence on reproduction is particularly evident during summer months and can contribute to seasonal infertility. Energy intake during lactation is especially important for subsequent fertility in early-weaned sows. With the implementation of early-weaning strategies, the litter weaning weight has also become more important because pigs weaned at heavier weights are easier to manage in the nursery. Many commercial swine farms fail to provide sufficient dietary energy to their lactating sows. This article briefly reviews the scientific evidence for maximizing feed intake during lactation and provides practical suggestions for implementing feeding programs in the farrowing house.

MAXIMIZING ENERGY INTAKE Amino acid and energy intakes are important in influencing lactation and the reproductive performance of lactating sows. Veterinarians’ understanding of the protein and amino acid requirements of lactating sows has grown considerably in recent years. Sows need more lysine to minimize muscle loss and improve subsequent reproductive performance than is required for milk production.6 In addition, amino acids other than lysine, including the branched-chain amino acids valine and isoleucine, are more important for maximum milk production than was previously believed.7–10 Studies determining amino acid requirements

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Food Animal

35 — Milk Yield (lb) 30 — 25 — 20 — 15 — — — —

16.5 Mean Luteinizing Hormone (ng/ml) 11.5

0.4 — 0.3 — 0.2 — 0.1 — 0 9
— — — —

16.5 11.5 6.5
— —

6.5

10 9

15

21 27 33 Lysine Intake (g/day)

39

45

15

21

27

33

39

45

Lysine Intake (g/day)
Figure 2—Influence of lysine and energy (Mcal/day of metabolizable energy) intakes on luteinizing hormone secretion. (From Tokach MD, Pettigrew JE, Dial GD, et al: Characterization of luteinizing hormone secretion in the primiparous lactation sow: Relationship to blood metabolites and returnto-estrus interval. J Anim Sci 70:2199, 1992; modified with permission)

Figure 1—Influence of lysine and energy (Mcal/day of metabolizable energy) intakes on milk yield. (From Tokach MD, Pettigrew JE, Crooker BA, et al: Quantitative influence of lysine and energy intake on yield of milk components in the primiparous sow. J Anim Sci 70:1865, 1992; modified with permission)

for sows of modern, high-producing, lean genotypes have been reviewed.11–14 Although this article focuses on the energy requirements of lactating sows, veterinarians should understand that the lysine requirement during lactation is influenced by energy intake (Figure 1). At low energy intake (6.5 Mcal/day), increasing lysine intake from 9 to 45 g/day has little effect on milk yield.15 However, as energy intake increases to 16.5 Mcal/day, the response to greater lysine intake increases markedly. These results reveal that milk yield depends on lysine and energy intakes because the response to one is contingent on the intake of the other. Thus energy intake must be considered when recommending lysine for lactating sows. Energy and lysine intakes also interactively influence the secretion of reproductive hormones and subsequent reproductive performance (Figure 2).5 At low energy intake (6.5 Mcal/day of metabolizable energy), increased lysine intake has little influence on the mean secretion of luteinizing hormone (LH). The influence of lysine intake on LH secretion increases as energy intake increases. Thus LH secretion, like milk production, is reduced by the restricted intake of lysine or energy. Consequently, if energy intake is limited, increased dietary lysine has little effect unless energy or feed intake is increased simultaneously. Sows of modern, high-producing genotypes usually need more energy than is provided by spontaneous food intake.16 Therefore, these sows typically must mobilize body reserves during lactation. To maximize the longevity of these sows, management must use a feeding strategy that maximizes feed intake during lactation

Farrowing Rate (%)

95 – 90 – 85 – 80 – 75 10

Higha Meda,b Lowb
– – – – – 22

13

16

19

Weaning Age (days)
Figure 3—Influence of three lactation-feed intakes on subse-

quent farrowing rate. Lines lacking a common superscript letter differ (P < .05). (From Koketsu Y, Dial GD, King VL: Influence of factors on farrowing rate on farms using early weaning. J Anim Sci 75:2582, 1997; with permission)

and minimizes the loss of body stores of energy and protein.17 The impact of feed intake during lactation on subsequent reproduction increases as weaning age decreases.1 As weaning age is reduced, increased feed intake during lactation is associated with a greater improvement in farrowing rates (Figure 3). The use of high dietary fat levels during lactation to increase dietary energy can improve litter weaning weights but may actually impair subsequent reproductive performance by reducing the number of LH peaks in early lactation.18 Nevertheless, fat intake must not be limited during lactation. The most practical method of increasing energy intake is to increase total food consumption.

ENERGY AND LYSINE INTAKE I FEED INTAKE AND WEANING AGE I LUTEINIZING HORMONE

Food Animal

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Average Pig Weight (lb)

12.6 13 – 12 – 10.5 11 – 10 9.4 9.3 9.7 9.4 10 – 9.2 8.4 9 – 8.4 7.9 8– 7– 6– 5
– – – – – – – – – –

130 –
Litter Weight (lb)

118

110 – 90 –
70 73 72 77 65
– – –

85 85 84 74

89

70 – 50
– –

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10 11

1

2

3

4

5

6 Farm

7

8

9

10 11

Farm
Figure 4A Figure 4B

Figure 4—Average (A) pig and litter (B) weaning weights (day 16) at 11 farms; farm 11 feeds its sows several times a day.

STABLE FEEDING THROUGH FARROWING Although most nutritionists and veterinarians agree on the goal of maximum feed intake throughout lactation, there is considerable debate on how to achieve it. How quickly should feed intake be increased in early lactation? Some veterinarians advocate feeding extremely low levels of feed (2 lb or less) before and immediately after farrowing. However, field experience shows that extremely low intake during this period limits the producer’s ability to increase feed intake rapidly during early lactation. In extreme cases, ulcers can result from the extended period of low intake around farrowing. The sows go off feed or have a noticeable dip in feed intake. After the long period without feed, sows often overeat if given free access to feed. However, instead of correcting the cause (i.e., the extended period of little or no feed intake before and immediately after farrowing) of this problem, many producers try to resolve it by limiting the feeding times and amounts of sows that fail to feed. Sows should always have access to fresh feed to maximize milk production and subsequent reproductive performance. Therefore, before farrowing and after sows have been moved to farrowing stalls, we recommend feeding 4 to 6 lb of feed per day. FEEDING PRACTICES Case 1: Effect on Litter Weaning Weight One study tracked the average pig weaning weights for the first 20 weeks of production on 11 farms (Figure 4). All farms have the same sow genotypes and nutritional programs. The average weaning age was 16 ± 1 days. The average pig weaning weight from the first 10 farms was 9.2 lb, with the best farm averaging 10.5 lb. The average pig weight from farm 11 is 3.4 lb greater than the average of the first 10 farms or 2.1 lb greater than the best of the first 10 farms. In addition, the lit-

Relative Frequency (%)

50 – 40 – 30 – 20 – 10 – – – – – – – – –

9 lb 12 lb

0

2

4

6

8

10 12 14 16 18 20

Figure 5—Distribution of pig weights at two average weaning

Pig Weight (lb)

weights.

ter weaning weight on farm 11 also was increased (Figure 4). Thus the increased average pig weight was not due to having fewer pigs weaned per litter. The litter weaning weight of farm 11 is nearly 30 lb greater than that of the best of the first 10 farms. Why are the weights so much greater at farm 11? The employees on farm 11 made a commitment to keep feed in the feeder at all times. They feed multiple times per day and readily determine the reason a sow fails to eat. We also believe that providing frequent feedings of smaller amounts of feed prevents sows from gorging or refusing feed. What are the implications of the difference in average pig weaning weights on these farms? Figure 5 illustrates the normal distribution of pig weights for two farms with 9- and 12-lb average pig weaning weights. For the farm with the 9-lb average pig weight, approximately 70% of the pigs weigh less than 10 lb. However, for the farm with a 12-lb average weight, only 20% of the pigs weigh less than 10 lb. Pigs from that farm will be much easier to manage in the nursery than will be pigs from the farm with a 9-lb average weight.

MAXIMIZING MILK PRODUCTION I TRACKING WEANING WEIGHTS I FREQUENT FEEDINGS

0

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Food Animal

The extra lactation feed that yielded the increased litter weaning weight in farm 11 compared with the other farms is approximately 4 lb/day. Actual feed deliveries confirmed that lactation feed use was 4 lb more at farm 11.

Case 2: Accuracy of Daily Feed-Intake Cards Another study of a 3000-sow farm with 450 farrowing crates illustrates some problems with estimating feed intake during lactation. During a 6-month period, 3615 litters were weaned, with an average litter weaning weight of 101 lb at 19 days of age. In addition, during this 6-month period, 419 tons of lactation feed were delivered to the farm. Meticulous feed-intake records were kept, and scoops were weighed periodically to ensure accuracy. Two nurseries with feed lines already installed were converted to farrowing-house rooms. The feed lines were fitted with automatic gestation feed drops over the farrowing crates. Multiple times per day, farrowing house personnel would trip the drops to provide lactation feed. The average daily feed intake (14.4 lb/day) during lactation was calculated from several hundred of the sows’ feed-intake cards. Further calculations were made from the amount of milk energy output to support the observed litter gain of approximately 70 lb and the amount of energy intake per day according to the 14.4 lb/day feed intake. These calculations indicated that the average sow should have been gaining approximately 50 lb during lactation or litters should have been 30 lb heavier. Visual appraisal of the weaned sows indicated that they failed to gain weight during lactation. Lactation feed use was therefore calculated using two other methods. The first was based on the number of crate days according to the following formula:
Total feed = 419 Tons × 2000 lb = 10.2 lb/day Crates × Days 450 Crates × 182 Days The second method was based on the number of lactating days: Total feed = 419 Tons × 2000 lb/ton = 12.2 lb/day Litters × 3615 × 19 Days Lactation length The first method underestimates the average feed intake during lactation because of the number of days that crates are empty or contain sows that have not farrowed but are eating lactation feed. The second method overestimates the feed intake because the feed given to sows that have not farrowed is counted as feed provided to lactating sows. However, the true daily lac-

tation feed intake has to be somewhere between 10.2 lb and 12.2 lb. Thus the cards overestimated the daily feed intake. In addition, average litter and pig weaning weights were examined in the modified rooms with the gestation feed drops and compared with the overall average. The litter weaning weight was 111 lb in the rooms with feed drops compared with the 101-lb farm average. The average pig weight was 12.3 lb in the rooms with feed drops compared with the 11.2-lb farm average. We have found that daily feed intake by individual sows as recorded on feed cards is inaccurate on many farms and may lead to a false sense that lactation intake is being maximized. On many farms, we see lactating sows with empty feeders by midmorning after an earlymorning feeding, but farm personnel are reluctant to provide another feeding because of labor constraints. Eliminating the time used for filling out inaccurate feed cards can provide extra time for additional feedings.

RECOMMENDED METHOD FOR MAXIMIZING FEED INTAKE Various feeding methods can be used to maximize intake. The most important facet of any feeding method is to ensure that sows always have access to feed. The simplest method we advocate is to put feed in the feeder when it is empty. However, many producers are concerned about the ability to detect when sows refuse to feed. Therefore, we recommend a simple procedure that can be introduced to a variety of personnel with a minimum amount of training and can ensure the early detection of sows that are off feed. Lactating sows should be fed three or four times per day to ensure that feed is always available. We suggest using the following procedure to maximize sow feed intake (Table I): Sows should be fed zero, one, or two scoops at each of three feedings during the day. If the feeder contains feed from the previous meal, no feed should be added. If a small amount of feed remains, one scoop should be added. If the feeder is empty, two scoops should be added. The only deviation from this pattern is for days 0 to 2 after farrowing. During that time, the producer should decide whether to provide no feed or one scoop at each meal. The sows should not receive two scoops at a single feeding during this period. The following example depicts the decision process at each feeding. A key is to develop a healthy line of communication among employees and thus be able to gauge each sow’s appetite for the previous two or three meals and determine how long sows may have refused feed. Various methods of recording feed intake can be followed, including keeping daily written records, clipping clothespins on feeders, or rotating far-

CALCULATING FEED USE I ACCESS TO FEED I FEEDING PERIODS

Food Animal

Compendium September 2000

TABLE I Recommended Feeding Method to Maximize Intake During Lactation Amount of Feed in Feeder (lb) Days 0 to 2 None <2 >2 Day 2 to weaning None <2 >2
NA = not applicable.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT

Number of 4-lb Scoops to Feed Morning Noon Evening 1 0 0 2 1 0 NA NA NA 2 1 0 1 0.5 0 2 2 1

Contribution No. 00-45-J from the Agricultural Experiment Station, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas.

REFERENCES
1. Koketsu Y, Dial GD, King VL: Influence of factors on farrowing rate on farms using early weaning. J Anim Sci 75: 2580–2587, 1997. 2. King RH, Martin GB: Relationships between protein intake during lactation, LH levels and oestrus activity in first-litter sows. Anim Reprod Sci 19:283–292, 1989. 3. Neil M: Effects of Ad Libitum Feeding in Lactation and the Timing of its Introduction on Sow Performance, report 237. Uppsala, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, 1996. 4. Koketsu Y, Dial GD: Factors associated with average pig weight at weaning on farms using early weaning. Anim Sci 66:247–253,1998. 5. Tokach MD, Pettigrew JE, Dial GD, et al: Characterization of luteinizing hormone secretion in the primiparous, lactation sow: Relationship to blood metabolites and return-toestrus interval. J Anim Sci 70:2195–2201, 1992. 6. Tritton SM, King RH, Campbell RG, et al: The effects of dietary protein on the lactation performance of first-litter sows, in Batterham EJ (ed): Manipulating Pig Production IV. Werribbee, Australia, Australiasian Pig Science Association, 1993, p 265. 7. Richert BT, Tokach MD, Goodband RD, et al: Valine requirement of the high-producing lactating sow. J Anim Sci 74:1307–1313, 1996. 8. Richert BT, Goodband RD, Tokach MD, et al:The effect of dietary lysine and valine fed during lactation on sow and litter lactation performance. J Anim Sci 75:1853–1860, 1997. 9. Richert BT, Goodband RD, Tokach MD, et al: Increasing valine, isoleucine, and total branched-chain amino acids for lactating sows. J Anim Sci 75:2117–2128, 1997. 10. Moser SA, Tokach MD, Dritz SS, et al: The effects of branched chain amino acids on sow and litter performance. J Anim Sci 77:1853,1999. 11. Richert BT, Tokach MD, Goodband RD, et al: Amino acid requirements for lactating sows: New developments. Compend Contin Educ Pract Vet 18(4):S127–S143, 1998. 12. Pettigrew JE: Lactation requirements for the sow. Biokyowa Tech Rev 5:1993. 13. Kerr BJ: Amino acid nutrition of lactating sows. Biokyowa Tech Rev 10:1998. 14. NRC: Nutrient Requirements of Swine, ed 10. Washington, DC, National Academy Press, 1998. 15. Tokach MD, Pettigrew JE, Crooker BA, et al: Quantitative influence of lysine and energy intake on yield of milk components in the primiparous sow. J Anim Sci 70:1864–1872, 1992. 16. Noblet J, Dourmad JY, Etienne M: Energy utilization in pregnant and lactating sows: Modeling of energy requirements. J Anim Sci 68:562–572, 1990. 17. Dourmad JY, Etienne M, Prunier A, et al: The effect of energy and protein intake of sows on their longevity: A review. Livest Prod Sci 40:87–97, 1994. 18. Kemp B, Soede NM, Helmond FA, et al: Effects of energy source in the diet on reproductive hormones and insulin during lactation and subsequent estrus in multiparous sows. J Anim Sci 73:3022–3029, 1995.

rowing cards to indicate poor appetite during previous meals. Morning Feeding All sows should be fed one 4-lb scoop if a small amount of feed remains in the feeder and two 4-lb scoops (i.e., 8 lb) if the feeder is empty. Late Morning Feeding A second feeding should be offered later in the morning or immediately after lunch using the same scheme of one scoop if a small amount of feed remains and two scoops if the feeder is empty. If no feed has been consumed since the morning feeding, the sow should be examined to determine whether it has a fever, retained pig, or other detectable reason for being off feed. Evening Feeding A similar scheme should be followed for the evening feeding; however, some judgment will have to be used if some feed is left in the feeder. The sows with good appetites throughout the day should receive two scoops, even if some feed remains. One scoop should be fed if feed remains in the feeder but the sow has consumed a small amount since the last feeding. Again, if the feed has not been touched since the last feeding, affected sows should be examined.

CONCLUSION The scientific literature shows that lactation feeding impacts litter weaning weights and subsequent reproductive performance. Implementing a simple feeding management procedure can alleviate problems attributed to management-induced energy deficiency during lactation.

FEEDING AMOUNTS AND TIMES I FEEDING MANAGEMENT PROCEDURE

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Food Animal

About the Authors
Dr. Dritz is affiliated with the Food Animal Health and Management Center, College of Veterinary Medicine, and Drs. Tokach, Goodband, and Nelssen with the Department of Animal Sciences and Industry, Kansas State University, Manhattan.

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