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PROJECT FACT SHEET

Swine Cluster 4 (2023-2028)

Activity 14 | Animal Nutrition

Developing a feeding strategy for the transition period to maximize sow milk yield

Project Lead: Chantal Farmer, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC)

Status: Ongoing

Why is this project important?

 

Consuming a sufficient quantity of milk from the sow is critical for piglet nourishment and growth. Today, many sows are not producing enough milk to optimize growth, and the situation has been worsened by the development of hyper-prolific sows. Because these animals can produce up to 18 offspring compared with the standard 12, each piglet is receiving less milk than before.


As a result, increasing sow milk yield is vital for both pigs and producers. In the past, researchers have managed to stimulate mammary development in gilts by inserting more lysine in their diets during the last third of gestation. This project seeks to build on that work by combining two different treatments in the hopes of further enhancing milk yield and piglet growth.

 

 

What will researchers do?

 

This project  involves three sub-projects exploring a range of options for increasing milk yield:

 

Sub-project 1: Effect of domperidone (increases concentrations of the hormone prolactin) in lactation on top of supplementary dietary lysine in late gestation to improve sow milk yield

 

  • Researchers will determine if increasing prolactin concentrations in lactation can enhance the positive effect of feeding supplementary lysine in late gestation to stimulate sow milk yield. Prolactin is a hormone that is most important for mammary development in swine. It is also essential for both the onset and the maintenance of lactation.

 

Sub-project 2: Synergistic effect of the growth factor IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor-1) and dietary lysine on mammary development in late-pregnant gilts

 

  • Researchers will determine if increasing concentrations of IGF-1 and feeding supplementary lysine in late gestation have a synergistic effect to stimulate mammary development in gilts. IGF-1 is a peptide (short chain of amino acids) that controls tissue growth and was shown to stimulate mammary development in late-pregnant gilts.

 

Sub-project 3: Synergistic effect of NuPro® and dietary lysine on mammary development in late-pregnant gilts

 

  • Researchers will determine if providing a dietary source of yeast-derived proteins (NuPro®) and feeding supplementary lysine in late gestation have a synergistic effect to stimulate mammary development in gilts. The yeast-derived proteins could assist in providing building blocks to further enhance tissue growth.

 

 

What will be the benefit of this research?

 

When the sow fails to produce a sufficient quantity of milk for every member of the litter, it is a major limiting factor in the farrowing room. By using a number of strategies to increase mammary development in sows and, in the process, boost milk yield, researchers on this project can ensure that piglets weigh more at weaning. The greater body weight will make the animals more resistant to limiting factors like stress and disease.


As well, faster growth means that pigs will take less time to reach market weight. With producers facing a rapid rise in feed prices, this is critical, as the faster that pigs attain market weight, the less feed they require over the course of their time on farm. Given that feed is the biggest input cost to producers, anything that lowers those costs can have a significant impact on their bottom line.

 

These strategies allow producers to continue their use of hyper-prolific sows, maintaining large litter sizes without compromising piglet health or growth.

 

 

What has been done so far?

 

Sub-project 1 is underway, with sows now having farrowed for a few months. Researchers are currently working to prepare the animals for sub-project 2, which will commence in November of 2024, followed by sub-project 3 in 2025.

 

 

Project status: Currently in progress. Results expected in 2028.

 

Collaborators:

 

  • Lee-Anne Huber, Guelph University

  • Russ Hovey, Ph.D., University of Davis, California

  • Jose Soto, Alltech

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