15 January 1999

Fibre might have role in sow behaviour

AD-LIB high fibre diets could help improve behaviour of pregnant sows and reduce restlessness without them becoming overfat, but researchers are unsure whether it is economic.

Marie-Christine Meunier-Salaun of the French INRA research station at St Gilles told the conference that conventional restricted diets were formulated to avoid sows becoming overfat, so ensuring good health and performance.

"But this may not fulfil sows other needs, particularly for feeding motivation and their behavioural need to forage." Poor feeding motivation leads to lower intakes during lactation.

According to Dr Salaun, the solution is to increase feed supply or offer ad-lib feed by diluting energy levels with fibrous concentrates, so increasing gut fill.

She believed offering straw for foraging, as bedding, in troughs or in diets was not a solution. It had not been proven to improve sow behaviour.

"But sows fed more fibrous concentrates are quieter and have longer feeding times," said Dr Salaun. It was possible that sugar beet pulp could be used in diets, keeping daily energy intake the same as for conventional diets.

Studies show that diets high in fibre have no negative effect on reproductive performance. Results indicate slight increases in pigs born, more pigs weaned, higher total weaning weight of litters and increased sow feed intake during lactation. When conventional pregnant sow diets were fed, sow intakes during lactation were often too low to support energy requirements, she said.

But Dr Salaun stressed that any positive effect from high fibre diets would depend on feeding procedures. Studies on long-term effects and economics were still needed. There may also be difficulties when handling and storing bulkier diets and coping with the extra manure produced.

Restricted feeding results in hunger, increased aggression and competition in group housed systems. Bulky or high fibre feeds could help reduce hunger and meet the sows need to chew, without detrimental effects on farrowing or reproductive performance. &#42

FIBRE FOR SOWS

&#8226 Ad-lib feeding?

&#8226 Improved behaviour.

&#8226 Straw no good.