Everything goes better if it gets a good start. Pigs are no different. Getting high-quality pigs is tough if you don’t start with a healthy sow. Sows today are producing more pigs per litter and are working hard to farrow those litters and feed them to a healthy wean weight. But they can’t do that if their bodies aren’t ready to reach their full potential.
Some producers start their gilts on a finishing diet, but if we have the choice, we don’t recommend it. The goal isn’t to get gilts to grow as fast as they can. Finishing diets are formulated for pigs that will be marketed. Our goal with gilts is longevity – we’re going to be asking a lot of them, so we want to ensure long-term productivity. A rule of thumb is a gilt won’t pay for herself until after her third litter, so it’s important to remember that her diet is an investment in her development. This will help her remain in the herd past her third parity. Her body is still growing and getting ready to breed, so gilts must have a diet with a higher nutrient level, trace minerals and a vitamin pack that matches their needs. After her first litter, a sow’s nutrition can be further dialed in if necessary to ensure she’s ready for the next breeding cycle.
Depending on their body condition score, gestating sows need a little less lysine than developing gilts or lactating sows. They may also get a bit more fiber, which helps them feel more satiated, making for a calmer sow barn.
When sows farrow and begin lactating, energy is the name of the game. Sometimes, producers may completely remove the fiber and find ways to fill that space with more fat and calories. Sows typically lose one body score during lactation, so the key is to give them as many opportunities as possible to eat plenty of fresh feed.
Our goal when a piglet hits the ground is to put it in the best position possible for success. That means good gut health, plenty of milk and a clean environment free from health challenges. Piglet health is easier to maintain than it is to try to fix later. If you don’t get off to the healthiest start, it may never be what it could have been.
Gut health keeps sows performing
Maintaining good gut health is key to getting healthier, high-performing sows. A healthy gut has long, finger-like projections that allow maximum nutrient absorption. This is important throughout the reproductive cycle, as getting plenty of nutrients is the key to growing and feeding healthy pigs.
A significant portion of the immune system is located in the gut. The healthier the gut is, the more efficient your sow will be at keeping harmful bacteria from growing in her gut. She may still have health issues on occasion, but she’ll bounce back faster from these challenges. Simply put, the key to a healthy gut is to provide an environment that allows good bacteria, such as lactobacillus and bifidobacteria, to flourish while preventing the growth of bad bacteria.
Another plus is that with a healthy gut, the bacterial load in a sow’s feces is reduced, meaning her pigs are less likely to come into contact with it during those vital first few days.
One way to balance the bacteria in the sow’s system is to include essential oils in the feed or water. One option is Regano® EX, a natural feed additive that helps pigs overcome stress and supports overall immunity. Another way to encourage good bacteria is by including prebiotic fiber in the diet.
How Ralco can help save more piglets
Once piglets are born, try Ralco’s fast-acting natural oral drench that gets baby pigs up and eating quickly by stimulating appetite and supporting a healthy immune function.