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To bump or not to bump?

National Pork Board piglets nursing
Results suggest increasing gilt feeding level in late-gestation does not impact mean piglet birth weight when gilts are over-conditioned.

By Mark Knauer and James Quick, North Carolina State University
Bump feeding, or increasing sow feeding level in late-gestation, is inconsistently utilized across the industry. Hence, there is opportunity to better understand bump feeding and determine if and when females should be bump fed.

Last August we outlined strategies to enhance piglet birth weight. Generally, bump feeding has been shown to enhance piglet birth weight in gilts but not sows. Yet the ideal bump feeding level and optimal length of bump feeding is not well-defined for gilts.

Therefore, the objective of the current study was to evaluate the impact of increasing gilt feeding level in late-gestation, for different durations, on piglet quality.

Gilts (n=472) were allocated to one of five dietary treatments in a 2 × 2 factorial plus control design at a commercial farm in eastern North Carolina. Gilts were fed 4 pounds of feeding until farrowing (Control) or feeding level was increased by either 1.5 or 3 pounds at either Day 93 or 100 of gestation. Gilts were loaded into farrowing at Day 110 of gestation and diet modifications discontinued. Treatments were randomly assigned by pen (five to six gilts per pen). The gestation diet contained 2,979 kilocalories per kilogram ME and 0.58% SID lysine. Gilt body condition score was captured at Day 93 of gestation using a sow body condition caliper (thin = <12, ideal = 12 to 15, fat = >15). Piglet birth weights were captured within 24 hours of farrowing and piglets were ear notched by treatment prior to cross-fostering.

Average gilt caliper score at Day 93 of gestation was 17.0. Hence gilts, on average, were over conditioned. Yet there is some thought in the industry one might not need to bump feed over-conditioned gilts, which perhaps explains some of our results.

Mean piglet birth weight did not differ (P>0.05) between the five dietary treatments or the main effects of feeding level or length of feeding level (Table 1). A one piglet increase in litter size reduced (P<0.01) mean piglet birth weight by 0.066 pounds.

 Impact of late-gestation feeding level and duration on reproductive performance

An increase of one functional sow teat increased (P<0.05) litter size at weaning of the biological sow by 0.28 piglets. Results suggest increasing gilt feeding level in late-gestation does not impact mean piglet birth weight when gilts are over-conditioned.

So, should producers bump feed gilts in late-gestation? At this time, we would recommend not to bump feed over-conditioned gilts. Yet there is more work to be done. A better understanding of gilt bump feeding on piglet birth weight, colostrum production, female retention and subsequent reproduction is needed.

Questions can be sent to Mark Knauer. The authors would like to thank the cooperating North Carolina producer for making this project possible.

Source: Mark Knauer and James Quick, North Carolina State University, who are solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly own the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

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