Lactation weight and fat loss are directly related to lactation feed intake, says Todd See, North Carolina State University swine specialist. Higher feed intakes may achieve maternal body weight gain and fatty tissue balance. Lactation weight loss may be largely prevented at feed intakes above 11 pounds per day, which should be achievable, says See. Lactation fat losses may be largely prevented at feed intakes above 18 pounds per day, which is not as easily achieved.

The following points can help you maximize the sow's appetite during lactation. Diets should be balanced so that all nutrients are provided in the correct proportions for nutritional requirements and energy balance, says See.

  • Increase Feeding Frequency. When producers switch from feeding two times a day to three times daily, most experience a 10 percent to 15 percent increase in sow feed intake. The reason this strategy works is related to the normal increase in body temperature that occurs after a sow consumes a meal.
  • Keep Feed Fresh. Sows tend to be picky eaters compared to most animals. In warm environmental conditions, feed is more likely to spoil, especially if it contains high fat levels. Increasing the feeding frequency in conjunction with feeding slightly smaller meals is an excellent way to keep feed fresh, says See.
  • Try Liquid Diets. Success with this strategy tends to vary greatly between operations, but some reports show it can boost sow feed intake by as much as 15 percent. One drawback is that wet feed doesn't remain fresh in the trough for long, and molds will accumulate without regular cleaning.
  • Add Fat to the Diet. There are two important considerations in adopting this practice. First, a diet containing high amounts of fat will become rancid more quickly than a traditional diet with only
    1 percent to 2 percent fat. Second, because sows are consuming less feed, dietary levels of essential vitamins and minerals also need to be higher.
  • Provide Adequate Water. High ambient temperatures will increase water requirements. Increased water consump-tion coupled with increased urinary water loss is one mechanism by which pigs lose body heat.