Short remark about dry sows feeding

Pavel Tefilov, Swine Specialist, Genesus Inc.

When we miss paying enough attention to feeding dry sows during gestation, this may lead to serious issues with farrowing and milking.

Everyone tends to put some extra effort into feeding protocol after weaning, but what about the rest 110 days of pregnancy?

Feeding after weaning:

After weaning it is preferable to feed sows “flashing” or lactation diet and feed them ad libitum. If the sow has a good health status, she will eat well first day or two after weaning, then feed intake starts to drop. It is necessary to observe this behavior and avoid a full trough of rotten feed.

Higher nutrients feed, especially energy, will stimulate better ovulation and more eggs release, but it will not lead to next litter homogeneity, as eggs are already grown and mature, and only high level of nutrients consumption during lactation will help with next litter homogeneity.

From weaning to pregnancy day 28-32 (pregnancy test) 

It is very important to evaluate individual sows condition and adjust feed level accordingly. Very few sows gain weight during lactation, but if they do, they should be kept on maintenance level. Majority of sows lose 2-4mm of back fat in lactation and need extra feed to regain lost weight. It does not mean that sows need a lot of feed to recover: 200-400 g extra feed a day to maintenance level is enough to capture body weight in 25-28 days. Not all sows need this extra feed if feeding was done correctly in prior and during lactation.


Feeding in second part of pregnancy (up to day 85-90)

 In this period, it is very important to keep sows on a maintenance level feeding. Often feeders are not adjusted back to maintenance level and sows which were on skinny side after weaning are getting extra feed during all gestation period. Any 100-150 g of feed extra in this period may lead to fat deposition and extra fat affecting mammary glands tissue. Later on, sows will have big underline, but often with lower milk production.

Feeding in third part of gestation (day 90 to day 112)

From pregnancy day 85-90 fetuses are growing intensively and sows need more nutrients for piglets to grow. If not enough nutrients in the feed, sow will body reserves to grow fetuses.

Few studies (Effects of Amino Acid and Energy Intake During Late Gestation on Piglet Birth Weight and Reproductive Performance of Gilts and Sows Housed Under Commercial Conditions) did show that increasing feed third part of gestation does not influence piglets` birth weight, but it still is recommended to increase feed volume from day 85-90 in gestation to avoid sows losing weight pre-farrow. At the same time increasing feed level at this point will not lead to sows gaining weight.

Feeding pre-farrow: it depends on the farm routine and space availability if sows can be moved to farrowing room from 2 to 7 days pre-farrow and receive lactation diet at this time.

In an ideal world, it would be nice to feed them transition diet, but not many farms have corresponding technical opportunities.

Usually lactation diet consists of 50-60% higher amino acids level than dry sows diet and also way higher energy level, so it is not necessary or even not recommended to increase feed volume from what sows had in gestation, they will get more nutrients just because diet is more dense anyway

Sows body condition evaluation

Sows body conditions needs to be estimated at breeding, pregnancy check and pregnancy day 85-90. From first pregnancy check till day 85-90 sows should remain in the same conditions.

It is not easy to evaluate sows` condition!

Most of Genetic companies have back fat level recommendations based on proper measurements of back fat with professional equipment, for sows going into farrowing.

But it is very difficult or almost impossible to get proper back fat measurement without taking picture of measurement point.(left)

The simplest way to evaluate sows condition is to just score them based on score pictures, or with many different types of tools developed lately, which can give you an idea where the farm is based on sows’ body conditions.

Also, it is recommended to estimate yearly dry sows feed consumption and compare it with budget. 




Depending on ingredients availability or prices, dry sows diet can be designed concentrated or diluted, considering daily nutrients consumption. Based on Genetic companies` recommendations, will give an idea how much nutrients your sows should consume per day.


It is necessary to measure feed drop and adjust feed allowance according to each sow body condition score in different stages of pregnancy.

Every time when feed composition is changed, it is necessary to check bulk density. Sometimes, also due to improper feeding system installation different rows in gestation receive different volume of feed.

Over-conditioning sows can lead to many issues at farrowing, if farm has high number of still born, difficulties with farrowing, udder edema after farrowing and problem with milk production, it all can be related to sows overfeeding in gestation. Often fat sows have lower birth weight and lower vibe piglets compared to sows in “normal” body conditions

All above is well known, but from practice experience, often poorly executed on the farm.


Aherne, F.X. and R.N. Kirkwood. 1985. Nutrition and sow prolificacy. J. Reprod. Fertil. Suppl. 33:169.
Pettigrew, J.E. and R.H. King. 1992. Modern sows need nutrition to match. National
Hog Farmer 37(10):40.
Goncalves, M. A.; Gourley, K. M.; Dritz, S. S.; Tokach, M. D.; Bello, N. M.; DeRouchey, J. M.; Woodworth, J. C.; and Goodband, R. D. (2015) “Effects of Amino Acid and Energy Intake During Late Gestation on Piglet Birth Weight and Reproductive Performance of Gilts and Sows Housed Under Commercial Conditions,” Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station Research Reports: Vol. 1: Iss. 7.
Kim, SW, Wu, G, Baker, DH 2005. Amino acid nutrition of breeding sows during gestation and lactation. Pig News Inform 26, 89–99.
Lawlor, PG, Lynch, PB, O’Connell, MK, McNamara, L, Reid, P, Stickland, NC 2007. The influence of over feeding sows during gestation on reproductive performance and pig growth to slaughter. Archives of Animal Breeding 50 (special issue), 82–91.

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This post was written by Genesus