Credit photo : Kelly Hensing
Our mission as nutritionist is to build a feed formula that matches the animal requirement at the lowest cost possible. The difficulties in our job are that the animal’s requirements are changing depending on the animal’s development stage. For the adult sows, nutritionists normally formulate two different formulas; lactation and gestation. But actually, if we want to be more accurate in covering the needs of the sow and her litter, we should define at least 3 different stages in the sow cycle.
The transition period from late gestation to early lactation is rather short, but it is nonetheless of major importance for the productivity of sows. The transition period, here defined as the last 20 d of gestation and the first 5 d of lactation, encompasses substantial changes for the sow. More specifically, fetal growth, mammary growth, colostrum production and preparation of the farrowing require substantial amounts of nutrients during late gestation. After parturition, nutrients are mainly required for milk synthesis and sow maintenance. Therefore, Swine farmers should actually use what I call a peripartum or farrowing feed to help the sow to get prepared for parturition and lactation. You will find below some recommendations to help you to formulate your peripartum feed. 1 – Adjust amino-acids balance Higher requirement of Threonine in late gestation will support rapid foetal growth, mammary tissue development and mucosal tissue. Lactating gilts and parity 1 sows have a higher requirement of Tryptophan (e.g.0.22-0.25) than older parity sows. Consider your parity structure when determining the optimal ratio. Valine needs to be increased in late gestation and lactation to support colostrums and milk product. Ensure you have a balance of approximately 2:1 for Leucine to Isoleucine to ensure optimal function of branch chain amino acids and appetite in sows. 2 – High in Fermentable fibres Fibres need to include a blend of fermentable and non-fermentable fibres. The non-fermentable fibres are required to support gut transit and avoid constipation before farrowing. The fermentable fibres allow for the production of volatile fatty acids in the hindgut to provide additional energy during parturition. This promotes stabilized blood glucose levels, which allow improved litter uniformity at birth, reduce farrowing time and improved piglet vitality. Be cautious when you select your source of fibres, it should contain optimal balance of fermentable and non-fermentable fibres for optimal farrowing. 3 – High in Omega 3 DHA improves the brain development of the piglets and results in improve vitality and survivability. DHA also helps to reduce the oxidative stress on the sow during the farrowing process. Enrichment in DHA ratio can be achieved by supplementing the diets with a source of omega 3 fatty acids. This includes fish oils, algal products and plant oils (e.g. linseed or canola). However the desired omega-3 fatty acid is DHA. Unfortunately, omega-3 from plant sources (ALA) are poorly converted to EPA and then to DHA. 4 – Lower Calcium Lowering calcium in the peripartum phase is to prime the calcium mobilization from bones and avoid milk fever when lactation will start pump Calcium from the blood. 5 – Lower Dietary Electrolytes Balance We aim to lower the electrolytes balance prior to farrowing to assist the sow to active her calcium mobilization pathways to support a smooth milking transition (and avoid milk fever and MMA). This can be achieved by the using a combination of products like magnesium chloride, ammonia chloride, ammonia sulphate, calcium sulphate and magnesium sulphate. 6 – Increase Glutamine supplementation During late gestation, foetal growth is rapid and we aim to avoid protein catabolism. Supplementation of this non-essential amino acid improved litter survivability, weaning weights and sow feed intake. Glutamine can be found in all products containing protein but any shortfall can be made up using products like mono sodium glutamate, L-glutamine, wheat gluten. 7 – Increase Chromium Chromium improves the sensitivity of insulin receptors and has a positive impact on the hormone cascade to ensure a rapid and smooth farrowing process. Chromium also has a positive influence on the metabolism of the sow that is supporting rapid foetal growth and preparing for colostrums and milk production. 8 – Increase Carnitine Carnitine is an important amino acid that is essential to transform fat into energy. The increase of Carnitine supplementation at the end of gestation helps to increase the number of viable piglets, increase milk production and weaning weight.
As the peripartum feed requirement is quite different from the lactating feed, it is very important that farmers respect the period of feeding. If they use the peripartum feed after 5 days post farrowing, this could have negative impact on the milk production. We need to clearly explain this point to farmers and monitor the use of the peripartum feed. You may see this additional feed reference as an additional complexity for feed manufacturer. But it is actually a marketing opportunity for feed manufacturer to reinforce their differences against their competitors and provide more effective solutions to their customers. It is a new coming market trend. Several farmers in Europe already adopted the peripartum feed and it will not take long before Asian farmers apply similar practices. The first manufacturer who will introduce their peripartum feed and educate their customers on these practices will gain in popularity and credibility. They will appear as innovative and industry specialist. If they deliver proper messages, they could even become segment leaders and use this leverage to gain market share on other segments. As I wrote in an earlier article, it is not about nutrition, it is about marketing. And the peripartum feed is a wonderful technical and marketing opportunity to position your company brand. If you need some help in formulating your farrowing feed, do not hesitate to come back to me for discussion.