Genetic Companies Stepping Up Focus on Sow Milk Production Research

Farmscape for June 17, 2021

Full Interview 15:48 Listen


A Research Scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada says, as liter sizes increase, it becomes increasingly important to take steps to ensure each piglet receives enough milk for optimal growth. Over the past 40 years the average number of piglets born per litter in the United States has increased by almost 50 percent. In an effort to increase the productivity of piglets, scientists working on behalf of Swine Innovation Porc are exploring various strategies to increase sow milk production. Dr. Chantal Farmer, a Research Scientist in Sow Lactation Biology with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Sherbrooke, says, as litter sizes have increased, the amount of milk available for each piglet has decreased.

Clip-Dr. Chantal Farmer-Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada:
Sow milk yield has always been important because the sow is limiting the amount of milk that the piglet is ingesting. If the piglet is receiving artificial milk on top of the milk produced by its own mother, it will grow more. So, the growth capacity of the piglet is greater than what he’s doing or she’s doing depending on the amount of milk that the mother is producing.
If the sow would produce more milk, yes, the piglets would grow more. Now a days we have hyper prolific sows which is great, wonderful, great litter size. What is it doing? It’s made the problem even worse. Each piglet in a big litter is actually having less milk than in a smaller litter. Even though the sow is producing more milk, she’s not producing enough to make sure that each additional piglet has more milk so we have a problem. We need to assess the sow. We’ve done a lot of work in terms of litter size and now we really need to focus in terms of making sure each piglet has enough milk to have optimal growth.

Dr. Farmer says genetic companies have been stepping of their focus research aimed at increasing sow milk production. She says now that we’ve achieved great litter sizes, we need to work on colostrum and overall milk intake and genetic companies are achieving that goal.

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