By Jeff Wiegert and Mark Knauer, North Carolina State University
Does feeding a sow a lactation diet impact piglet colostrum intake and piglet quality? Everyone knows the importance of this nutrient-rich milk produced by the sow for the first 24 hours after farrowing. Research consistently shows increased piglet colostrum intake enhances piglet survival and subsequent growth.
New research from North Carolina State University looked at the impact of sow feeding level and diet composition on piglet colostrum intake, colostrum composition and sow productivity.
A Review of the Results
Researchers conducted four late gestation studies at North Carolina State University, including 298 sows and 3,963 piglets. Sows were fed a gestation diet (2,979 Kcal/kg ME, 0.58% SID lysine) until late gestation. Late gestation diets were either a gestation or a lactation diet (3,322 Kcal/kg ME, 0.99% SID lysine, 2.5% added fat). Sows transitioned to a lactation diet between 93 and 107 days of pregnancy until farrowing and feeding levels ranged from 1.5 to 4.5 kg per day. Total lysine intake (LYSINE), total added fat intake (FAT) and total metabolizable energy intake (ME) from day 93 of gestation to farrowing was calculated.
A one-piglet increase in total number born reduced average piglet birth weight by 0.08 pounds. Piglet birth weight was also influenced by parity as multiparous sows had heavier birth weights than primiparous females. However, total lysine intake, total added fat intake and total metabolizable energy intake had no influence on piglet birth weight.
Increased piglet colostrum intake was associated with increased total lysine intake, total added fat intake and total metabolizable energy intake number of functional teats and smaller litter size. While statistically significant, the associations between piglet colostrum intake with total lysine intake, total added fat intake and total metabolizable energy intake were weak.
The number of piglets weaned was influenced by parity, total number born, variation in piglet birth weight, piglet colostrum intake and number of functional teats. Increased number of piglets weaned was correlated with increased total number born, reduced variation in piglet birth weight, increased piglet colostrum intake and increased number of functional teats. The number weaned increased by 0.30 piglets for each additional functional teat.
Results of this meta-analysis suggest that increasing sow total lysine intake, total added fat intake and total metabolizable energy intake in late gestation, above what is typically fed on commercial sow farms, may improve piglet colostrum intake. However, it has little or no impact on pig or sow performance and would not be cost effective.
Colostrum Intake is Key
Piglet colostrum intake, but not colostrum fat, protein or lactose percent, was associated with increased piglet weaning weight and increased number of piglets weaned. This suggests colostrum intake is more important than colostrum composition. Further evaluation of colostrum composition is warranted as researchers did not evaluate individual proteins, fatty acids, etc.
An increased number of functional teats increased piglet colostrum intake and number weaned, but not average piglet weaning weight. This suggests an increased number of functional teats allows piglets to harvest more colostrum at birth which enhances piglet survival and piglets weaned.
However, the research shows that an increased number of functional teats does not increase milk production throughout lactation as number of functional teats was not associated with average piglet weaning weight.
Producers should monitor and evaluate the number of functional teats on their replacement gilts. Future work on increasing piglet colostrum intake and identifying the components of colostrum that drive piglet survival is warranted.
The North Carolina State University team of researchers would like to acknowledge support from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, the NC Pork Council and the NC Ag Foundation.