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Smart sow feeding leads to better piglet survival

Researchers from Aarhus University are collaborating with the industry on developing new feeding strategies and feed products that can improve piglet survival markedly.

[Translate to English:] Ny fodertyper og fodringsstrategier til søer kan øge antallet af overlevende pattegrise. Arkivfoto


Studies from Aarhus University have shown that more piglets can survive birth and the time thereafter if their mothers are fed closer to farrowing. The right feeding strategy results in a quicker farrowing and thereby stronger newborn piglets. 

The researchers behind this study are now collaborating with the industry to disseminate and apply knowledge about this feeding strategy on commercial farms and to develop new feed products aimed at reducing total pig mortality up to weaning. This will take place in the four-year research project Born2Live, which has been granted 7.1 million DKK from the Ministry of Food and the Environment’s Green Development and Demonstration Programme (GUDP). 

- If 80 percent of Danish pig farmers implement this new knowledge, potential additional earnings amounting to at least 139 million DKK can be achieved on the national level, says the leader of the new research project Senior Researcher Peter K. Theil from the Department of Animal Science at Aarhus University.    

Beware of low blood sugar in the sow

The aim of the project is to improve the sow’s blood sugar level in order to achieve a quicker farrowing. When the farrowing has a shorter duration, the chances for piglet survival and vitality improve, which in turn gives the piglets a good start in life. Short farrowings and high survival rates can be ensured by the right kind of sow feeding the last couple of days prior to farrowing. 

In the earlier study, the researchers found that when the sow was fed within the last three hours before farrowing begins, then the farrowing lasted less than four hours. If more than three hours passed from the last feeding until the start of farrowing, then the farrowing duration was prolonged and the number of stillborn piglets increased steadily as the time between last feeding and start of farrowing increased.  

- The proportion of stillborn piglets was only 3.7 percent when the sow began to farrow close to the last meal, whereas the national average is 9.4 percent, says Peter K. Theil. 


Read the article More frequent daily sow feedings reduces the number of stillborn piglets.

The new feeding strategies that the project will develop will ensure quicker farrowings by giving sows more meals. In order to zoom in on the best strategy, the project will test various combinations and levels of meal frequency, amount of feed per meal, and new feed compositions. In addition, the partners will develop new feed concentrate products, including a new wet feed product, to help ensure high blood sugar levels in the sow during farrowing.     

- We expect that Born2Live can reduce the proportion of stillborn piglets by 1.5 percentage points and increase survival rates of liveborn piglets by 0.5 percentage points, says Peter K. Theil. 


Facts about Born2Live

Funding: 7.1 million DKK from the Green Development and Demonstration Programme (GUDP)

Partners: Aarhus University (coordinator), Seges, Vestjyllands Andel (feed company)

Duration: Four years (January 2019-December 2022)


For more information please contact: Senior Researcher Peter K. Theil, Department of Animal Science, email: peter.theil@anis.au.dk, telephone: +45 8715 7803