Emma Slater, technical adviser for Farmgate Feeds, explores the importance of sow nutrition for producing healthy and robust piglets.
WE KNOW that nutrition plays a vital role in a sow’s reproductive performance, and, to reach her full potential, all essential nutrients and vitamins should be in good supply.
This is not just about supporting healthy and productive sows for longer, but also giving their pre-natal and newborn piglets the best start in life. A piglet’s nutrition starts long before they are born, and our focus should also be on their growth prior to birth, making sure that the sow is provided with the right balance of nutrients.
Over recent years, research has highlighted the importance of omega-3 fatty acids in health nutrition. Omega-3 is the name given to the family of essential, unsaturated fatty acids. It’s familiar to us all and we know the importance of it in our own diets, but this nutrient also brings benefits to a sow and her piglets.
Pigs can’t produce omega-3 themselves, so it needs to be supplied as part of a well-balanced diet, which can bring wide-ranging benefits for pig keepers, too. Omega-3 fatty acids are involved in the structure and growth of all cells in the animal and, as result, there’s good evidence to support the important role it has in contributing to healthy litter sizes and weaning weights.
The fertility cycle in pigs starts with the production of a wave of follicles, about 25 per wave for sows; and a healthy piglet comes from a strong, viable follicle. The hormone responsible for ensuring a food source is available to the follicles relies on omega-3 to do its job properly.
If omega-3 fatty acids are in short supply, then, potentially, food to the follicles will be too, not allowing them to grow and potentially impacting litter size. So it’s vital to ensure that your sow’s feed contains the right balance of vitamins, minerals and omega-3. This will have a positive impact on their reproductive performance, as well as improving litter size and weight.
This supply of essential nutrients must continue during the critical lactation period. Colostrum is the first milk produced by the sow and it’s full of energy, antibodies and key nutrients. Sows only produce colostrum for 24-48 hours, so sufficient early intake and the quality of the colostrum is essential.
The first six hours of colostrum intake is one of the most important success factors for pig performance. Optimising sow nutrition during late gestation and throughout the transition period can positively affect key proteins found in sow colostrum.
Good quality colostrum will kick-start the piglet’s immune system and helps to prevent disease susceptibility. By giving your piglets a strong start alongside promoting good quality milk production, you can also expect to see heavier weights at weaning.
Farmgate Feeds Sow & Weaner range is balanced with essential nutrients whilst also containing a unique combination of omega-3, fat-soluble vitamins and fibre to keep your sows healthy and give your piglets the best start in life.
Farmgate Feeds has an unrivalled range of products suitable for all stages of a pig’s life, and an expert team to support you on all aspects of pig nutrition and welfare.