Automated farrowing feeding systems provide critical insights to maximize milk yield

The number of piglets born per litter and the size of those piglets continue to rise.[1] As a result, today’s sows face more pressure to produce milk and maintain body condition. How can producers gain control over milk yield and sow performance? Monitoring and stimulating the feed intake of individual lactating sows. 

“Automated and responsive farrowing feeding systems collect individual sow feed intake data to ensure each sow’s nutritional needs are met,” says Jeff Morten, U.S. sales account manager at Nedap Livestock Management. “Strategically monitoring feed intake data trends enables producers to identify problem sows faster – sows that aren’t eating enough and those with potential underlying issues that could impact important factors such as milk yield.”

Here are four ways monitoring individual feed intake of lactating sows can help meet growing milk production demands:

1. Identify sows with low feed intake faster

Feed intake averages don’t identify sows that are below the curve. For example, average lactational feed intake typically ranges from 7 to 17 pounds per sow per day. However, even when herd feed intake averages appear normal, individual sows can be below the curve up to 60% of the time.[2] The consequences? A sow weaning 10 piglets loses about 1 pound of body weight for each 2.2-pound deficit in daily feed intake.[3] And lost body condition means lost milk production, so early intervention is crucial.

Automated and responsive farrowing feeding systems address fluctuations in feed intake in two ways. First, these systems deliver snack-sized feed portions on a pre-set schedule, or when the sow triggers an electronic sensor in the feed bowl. Increased feeding frequency has proven to stimulate appetite and increase overall feed intake, which supports milk production.[4] Second, farrowing feeding systems gather eating activity data 24/7. That means producers can identify individual feed intake trends and adjust accordingly before body condition and milk production drop.

2. Find sows needing attention faster

The best way to know what piglets are consuming is to monitor what lactating sows are eating. Piglet malnutrition resulting from sow lactation failure can account for 6 to 17% of all pre-weaning mortality in commercial pork operations.[5] Metabolic disorders, endocrine imbalances and bacterial infections like metritis can cause lactation failure. But, sudden changes in eating behavior can be used to identify these conditions and proactively address them, reducing piglet mortality.

Farrowing feeding systems don’t just collect data. They also send automated alerts when data indicates that a sow hasn’t “asked” for feed by triggering the wireless activator for a predetermined period, signaling a reduction in feed intake. Barn managers don’t have to monitor feeders for uneaten feed – allowing them to focus their time where it’s needed most. Alerts also identify sows in need of attention faster to minimize challenges such as lost milk production.

3. Detect feed quality issues sooner

Weather-delayed spring plantings and variable crop maturity have resulted in an elevated risk for mycotoxins in feed. Mycotoxins and other feed quality issues can result in disease, lower feed intake, lost body condition and lower milk yields. Farrowing feeding system data can help identify a mycotoxin challenge.

Producers can use feed intake data to quickly determine if a reduction in feed intake is impacting one sow, a group of sows or the entire farrowing barn. These insights can help producers quickly identify the scope of feed quality issues and empower producers to make necessary management changes. Producers can also use data to gauge the impact of management changes in real-time.

4. Boost feed efficiency, reduce feed costs

Feed palatability is a key driver of feed intake. Automated farrowing feeding systems can reduce or eliminate unpalatable feed in the feeder and boost feed efficiency by giving sows access to fresh feed 24/7. Employees authorized by the farm manager can also adjust feed portions anytime, anywhere using a smartphone, tablet or computer. Adjustments can help maximize feed intake to support milk production. At the same time, farrowing feeding systems can reduce feed costs, which account for up to 70% of pork production costs.[6]

“Increasing milk yield requires us to focus on individual sows’ feed intake – not merely herd averages,” says Morten. “Data can help producers pinpoint individual sow feed intake trends and intervene before potential problems with sow health or feed quality lead to lost body condition and lower milk yield.”

Discover Nedap Farrowing Feeding with Activator ›

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