Regardless of the feeding system in place, the goal is to maximize daily feed intake as soon as possible after farrowing. That ensures maximum milk production and litter growth as well as minimal body weight lost.
Feed must be kept fresh, which is a challenge in warm weather.
In general, systems able to have an intake of more than 825 lb. (375 kg) of lactation per year tend to be more productive than systems having a lower lactation diet usage.
With a 20-day lactation length, the target average daily feed usage is 15 lb. (6.8 kg) per farrowing crate, and 16 lb. (7.3 kg) per lactation day.
When longer lactations are being used and better feeder management is in place, some systems get closer to 1,000 lb. (454 kg) of lactation diet per sow per year.
Make sure the water flow rate is no less than 0.5 gal (2 L) per minute as this ensures an intake of more than 5 gal. (19 L) per day.
Lower or depressed feed intake is often the first sign of individual problems and/or issues affecting sows in farrowing. Those issues can be any of the following:
- High replacement rate (too many gilts farrowing at any given time).
- Illness in sows or litters.
- Room temperature (macro-environment) is too warm.
- Fresh water is not available.
- Feed is inaccessible or not palatable (feed is moldy).
- Hoof lesions.
- Shorter lactation.
- Retained placenta/piglet.
It is critical to identify any issues early. Monitor sows and litters closely, particularly in the first 2−3 days. Control rectal temperature for 2 days after farrowing, as anything above 104°F (40°C) during those days indicates infection. Any infection should be treated with antibiotics or antibiotics plus antipyretics to reduce fever.
Ensure every sow gets up, eats, and has access to fresh water every day.
Keep the sows’ macro-environment (room temp) at 70−74°F (21−23°C) during the first 3 days and at 66°F (19°C) after that. Set fan bandwidths 1.5° to 2° per each stage as a starting point. Adjust if needed.