Maximising the use of the costly farrowing facilities is important, especially when managing hyper prolific sows like DanBred Hybrids. Letting the sows nurse more piglets during lactation will improve overall daily gain of the litter as well as milk yield throughout subsequent lactations.
Experiences from around the world show, that even though a sow has 14 or more functional mammary glands, many farm managers does not let their sows nurse the same number of piglets as the number of functional mammary glands. Not only can this result in decreased utilisation of the costly farrowing facilities, but when handling hyper prolific sow, it will also reduce the overall productivity of the sow.
Increase average weight gain
Studies performed on DanBred sows shows that lifetime milk production is reduced, if the 1st parity sow does not nurse the same number of piglets as it has functional glands. By activating all mammary glands during the full lactation, especially in the 1st parity, sow productivity per nursing day will improve. Furthermore, this challenge of the sows will improve overall daily gain of the litter as well as milk yield throughout subsequent lactations.
Several studies regarding sow milk yield and litter weight gain has shown that letting the sows nurse the number of piglets, as they have functional mammary glands, will increase average weight gain of the litter per day of lactation. Danish results on DanBred sows support this conclusion. Even when individual piglet weight at weaning was reduced, when the sows took care of more piglets during lactation, the production per nursing day was increased by letting each sow nurse more piglets.
Supervision in the farrowing unit
In 2010 SEGES Pig Research Centre showed that DanBred sows can nurse 13 to 15 piglets if they have 13 to 15 functional teats but challenging the sows in this way does require extra supervision in the farrowing unit especially the first 4 to 6 days after farrowing as it must be ensured that all piglets has access to a functional teat.
Letting the sows take care of the same number of piglets as they have functional teats will not only increase the milk yield in following parities, but also optimise the general utilisation of the farrowing unit, as the pen space taken up by nursing sows can be reduced. On the other hand, it will take some management and supervision within the farrowing unit and piglets weight at weaning might be reduced, this will though not affect the piglet survival post weaning.
3 tips from the DanBred Technical Services Team
- Always let younger sows nurse the same number of piglets as they have functional teats
- Keep focus on the piglets and make sure that all piglets have access to a functional teat
- Keep challenging the sow. I.e.: if a piglet is removed during the first 4-6 days after farrowing, replace it with a piglet of similar size
Follow DanBred for regular updates on how to manage your hyper prolific DanBred sows. Find more on the studies done by SEGES Pig Research Centre here (in Danish):