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Effects of Timing and Amount of Feed Prior to Farrowing on Sow and Litter Performance Under Commercial Conditions

Gourley, K., A. Swanson, R. Royali, J. Woodworth, J. DeRouchey, M. Tokach, S. Dritz, K. Milnes and C. Hastad

A total of 727 mixed parity (mean=3.8) sows were used to evaluate the effects of timing and amount of meals before farrowing on sow and litter performance. Upon entry to the farrowing house (d 113), sows were blocked by weight within parity and allotted to one of three feeding management treatments until farrowing: 1) 2.7 kg lactation diet (1.15% SID lysine and 2,153 Kcal/kg NE) once daily at 0700 h; 2) 4 daily meals of 0.67 kg (0100 h, 0700 h, 1300 h, 1900 h); 3) ad libitum lactation diet and encouraged to consume feed at 0100 h, 0700 h, 1300 h, and 1900 h. Data was analyzed using the lme function (lmer package of R, version 3.5.2). Feeding sows ad libitum before farrowing tended to reduce sow body weight loss (P=0.077) and reduce backfat loss (P=0.003) from entry to weaning compared to sows fed 4 daily meals, with sows fed once daily intermediate. Litter gain from 24 h to weaning tended to be greater (P=0.073) in sows fed ad libitum or 4 times daily prior to farrowing compared to sows fed one meal.  Piglet weaning weight increased (P=0.050) in sows fed ad libitum before farrowing, compared to those fed one meal, with those fed 4 times daily intermediate. There was no evidence for difference in farrowing duration, stillborn rate, colostrum yield, or 24 h piglet survival regardless of treatment. However from 24 h to weaning, sows fed one daily meal had higher (P=0.012) percentage of fall-behind pigs compared to sows fed ad libitum, and increased (P=0.027) preweaning mortality compared to sows fed four daily meals, resulting in reduced (P=0.006) weaned percentage compared to sows fed four daily meals.

There was no evidence for a negative impact when sows were fed ad libitum from 2 to 3 days before farrowing.