In my consulting practice, one of the more common issues I encounter is a lack of alignment between nutrition strategies and feeding strategies. Effectively and efficiently meeting the nutritional needs of our animals requires careful coordination among nutritionists, the feed mill, and farm staff. In today’s post, I’ll discuss how to collaborate with a nutritionist to develop an effective gestation feeding program. The primary objective of a gestation feeding program is to quickly replenish any body condition lost during the previous lactation period and maintain body condition at target levels throughout gestation.
To begin, you’ll need a few key pieces of information from the nutritionist. First and foremost, you need to know the base feeding level of the gestation diet that the nutritionist has designed. The nutritionist’s role is to create a strategy that fulfills the sow’s nutritional requirements for energy, amino acids, and vitamins/minerals. This entails determining not only the composition of the feed but also the quantity the sows should consume. The base feeding level represents the amount of feed required to sustain the target body condition of an average sow that is already at the desired level. Let’s assume the base level provided is 5 lbs (2.2 kg) per day. This figure will be adjusted upward for under-conditioned sows and downward for over-conditioned sows. This brings me to the second crucial piece of information you should request from the nutritionist—the minimum feeding level.
Sows have fundamental nutritional needs, such as vitamin and mineral requirements, that must be met irrespective of their body condition. Therefore, it’s vital to have your nutritionist specify this minimum level. For instance, they might inform you that it’s 3.5 lbs (1.5 kg). In practice, you might feed under-conditioned sows 6 lbs of feed, or even more if they are severely under-conditioned (though this should be a rare occurrence), and 4 lbs to over-conditioned sows. However, you should never go below 3.5 lbs, even if they are significantly over-conditioned (which should be even rarer).
While these are the two critical pieces of information you’ll need from your nutritionist, remember communication is a two way street. They will need information and feedback from you. For example, it is critical that you let your nutritionist know if you are feeding once or twice per day as it can make minor, but important differences in required nutrient levels. If you make any significant changes to management strategy, be sure to let your nutritionist know and certainly inform them if you’re not getting the results you expected. If farm managers and nutritionists work closely together, the chances of the farm achieving its goals increase dramatically. Nutritionists can be an excellent resource for general management issues as well. They have deep understanding of metabolic processes that drive farm success so wise farm managers and production managers make sure to use this valuable resource.
Proper gestation feeding strategies are a critical yet sometimes overlooked aspect of an overall sow condition management strategy. It’s imperative that your on-farm feeding plan aligns with the nutritional strategy developed by the nutritionist. This alignment ensures the health and well-being of your animals and contributes to the overall success of the operation.
About the Author: Todd Thurman is an International Swine Management Consultant and Founder of Swine Insights International, LLC. Swine Insights is a US-Based provider of consulting and training services to the global pork industry. To learn more about the company, send an email to email@example.com or visit the website at www.swineinsights.com. To learn more about Mr. Thurman’s speaking and writing, visit www.toddthurman.me