The choice of feed and feed strategies has an important effect on gilt and sow performance.
In her doctoral project, Signe Lovise Thingnes used three different methodological approaches in order to investigate how gilts and sows are affected by feed and feed strategy during the breeding, gestation and lactation period. The use of pea starch in feed given to lactating sows proved to have a positive effect on the sows’ feed intake and condition at the weaning stage.
A higher energy content in the feed given to sows in the breeding period and parts of the first pregnancy was shown to give extra body reserves at the onset of breeding and to have a positive effect on life-span and production. During the lactation period, when good feed intake is important for minimising weight loss and loss of condition, free access to feed increased the risk of the sows losing their appetite. The use of pea starch in feed given to lactating sows proved to have a positive effect on the sows’ feed intake and condition at the weaning stage.
Breeding based on a long-term and systematic strategy has given Norwegian pig farmers a hybrid sow (Norwegian country pig x Yorkshire) with a good growth potential and high meat percentage. In addition, productivity has increased in terms of larger litters, higher weights at the weaning stage and a larger number of litters per sow per year. This leads to greater demands on the sow and it is therefore important that the feed strategies employed in herds match the production potential of the animals.
In the third study, Thingnes looked at whether pea starch is a good alternative to wheat starch in feed for lactating sows as regards their performance during the lactation period. The study showed that sows fed with pea starch had a higher feed intake, a lower weight loss and were in better condition at the weaning stage.