Enhancing Lactation Feed Intake



Healthy sow

Absence of disease - mastitis, lameness, gastric ulcer

Absence of parasites - Mange, Ascaris and other worms

Absence of oedema

Clean farrowing house - All-in All-out and good breeding controls


Gestation feed intake

Negative relationship between feeding the dry sow and feed intake when lactating

(Harker and Cole 1985)


Monitoring of feed intake

Using a feeding curve. However, ensure you know the actual volume/density of feed being fed. Weigh out a scoop on a regular basis. Minimise the number of stockpeople feeding lactating sows and ensure that they all use the same feeding scale. Record feeding scale as this forces discipline. Note volume and weight relationships vary depending on milling and type of feed.


Number of times feed

Twice is commonly practised. Three times will enhance intake but may also increase risk of trauma and trampling of the piglets. Note avoid mid-day feeding in the summertime as feed increases the sow's body temperature. Wet feeding lactating sow can produce very good results. Ad lib feeding should be considered.


Type of ration fed

Single ration as compared with two rations. Ideal lactation ration of 18% protein and 14 MJ per kg. Lysine concentration of > 1% is required. Increasing the protein consumption increases weaning weights, increasing the energy reduces weaning to service intervals. Note with crystalline lysine, other aminoacids may become limiting, in particular valine and threonine. To enhance aminoacid intake, top- dress with fish meal at 150 g per day.



Keep the food clean by having good storage controls and feed bin hygiene. Note changes in diet specifications. Pigs have very sensitive noses. Ad-lib feeding is not yet available in the farrowing house. Note trough design. Avoid mycotoxins in feed.


Enhancing Lactation Feed Intake 2



Water supply

A shortage of water will reduce feed intake. The lactating sow needs a flow rate of more than 2 litres per minute. At the peak of lactation she may drink more than 40 litres per day (10 gallons). Enhancing water supplies in the farrowing house will significantly reduce sow deaths associated with cystitis and pyelonephritis. Wet feeding has greatly assisted several farms.


Forward trough design

Ensure the feed is accessible, Ensure no feed is wasted. Wasted feed results in flies and expense. Troughs with lips and difficult corners may result in mouldy feed which reduces palatability


Temperature of farrowing house

Ideally run at 16-18 C. Increased farrowing house temperatures reduces feed intake. With farrowing house temperatures at around 24C the sows require drip cooling. Some farrowing houses run hotter than 18C because of poor creep design. The use of heat mats may help feed intake as it can help to reduce the room temperature.



Quiet and attentive stockpeople are needed. Good attention to sow behaviour. The playing of music helps to quieten the stock down.


Floor type

Cooling (heat conductive) floors can enhance feed intake in warm climate


Breed of pig

Ensure you use genetic lines of pigs which have good appetites, with good mothering abilities. Beware of selecting from mothers with poor lactation feed intakes and poor weaning weights/numbers.


Gilt management

Provide gilts with strong piglets to encourage milk flow


10 pigs per sow

Ensure all mammae are working. Note failure of a mammary gland will reduce next farrowing output to 70% of optima.


The aims of lactation feeding:

1. Maintain sow condition

2. Maximise piglet weaning weights 7+ kg at 24 days

3. Reduce weaning to service interval to 4-5 days as this will enhance future

litter size