From the first step your sow takes in the morning until her last, everything that happens to her during the day can impact her feed consumption and use. If you really want to improve your operation’s bottom line, try looking at your management practices from your sow’s point of view, says Rich Lepper, application and service manager, Nedap Livestock Management, North America.
Lepper offers seven tips to fine-tune feed efficiency and utilization in your sow herd:
1. Reduce environmental stressors.
Pigs respond quickly to environmental stress. Manage your buildings from your sows’ perspective. Ask yourself the following questions to better understand where your sow is coming from:
- Are your sows calm? What is disrupting them?
- How is the building’s ventilation?
- Is the temperature optimal?
- Can your sows eat without interruption and without the need to guard their feed from other sows?
- If you’re using an electronic sow feeding system, does it have forward exits to minimize interaction between fed and unfed sows?
2. Adjust rations based on need.
Sows have different nutritional requirements just like people. Precise, individual feeding based on parity, condition, and stage of gestation or lactation will help your sow get the nutrition that she needs. Collect individual feed data and review it with your nutritionist to make sure your sow can perform to her best ability.
3. Monitor feed ingredients and feed quality.
Feed quality and freshness can affect how the sow uses (or wastes) her feed. Test feed on a regular basis to make sure you are achieving your nutritionist’s specific recommendations. Monitor for unwanted mycotoxins to maximize productivity in your herd and avoid health-related challenges.
4. Measure individual sow feed intake.
Changes in feed consumption often point to larger problems at hand, including pen or herd health problems, poor water quality or availability, ventilation challenges, feed quality issues and more. When you know the source of the problem, you can adjust management protocols to get your sows’ productivity and health back on track.
5. Check water daily.
Water is critical for sows to utilize nutrients during digestion and to maximize their overall performance and health. Make sure your sows have easy access to high-quality, clean water at all times.
6. Feed bin management.
Be on the lookout for leaks or excessive condensation that could create hang-up or compaction in your feed bin. Empty feed bins regularly and rotate bins if possible to make sure feed delivery into the barn is always fresh.
7. Follow biosecurity protocols.
Keep disease out of your herd to protect your sows’ ability to efficiently use feed. Develop a biosecurity plan with your veterinarian and make sure all employees and delivery drivers follow your protocols.
“Sows can’t talk, but visual cues and data tell us their story if you will hone your observation skills in these areas. Your best path to success is to remember the basics: food, water and environment,” Lepper says. “A combination of monitoring sow behavior, interpreting production and feed data, and adjusting feed practices will benefit your bottom line. If you take care of the sow, she’ll take care of you.”