The gestation period is where the future productivity of the whole farm rests
Gestating sows are the most convenient animals. After insemination, they require relatively little attention. As such, the nutrition of these animals is erroneously considered the least important or least interesting part of the life cycle of pigs. Nevertheless, it is in the gestation period where the future productivity of the whole farm rests, because slight variations in sow condition can have long repercussions in the future. Here are some pointers to consider:
Optimal body condition
Average body weight and frame size is determined by genetics, but body condition is determined by nutrition. My most common observation on many farms is that gestating sows tend to be overweight as feed allowance is rather generous. At the other end of the scale, lactating sows often become too thin if lactation length is protracted or lactation feed intake management is insufficient. On a scale of 1 (emaciated) to 5 (very fat), gestating sows should be kept at a body condition around 3.
Average daily feed allowance
In practical terms, a daily feed allowance of between 2 kg and 3 kg per sow is adequate for most sow genetics. The exact amount depends on the energy concentration in feed and the average sow body weight at each farm plus the age of the animal. As a general rule of thumb, feeding 2.5 kg per sow will maintain the herd in an average condition but, again, attention should be paid to individual animals.
It has often been suggested that gestating sows require more nutrients during the early and/or late gestating periods. As such, many interesting nutrition programs have been devised along the years, where sows are fed according to a multi-step program. This is often a very elaborate practice, requiring sophisticated labor, which is often lacking. In truth, large-scale experiments have clearly demonstrated that, in practice, gestating sows can do equally well on a constant-level feeding program (traditional method) compared with the more elaborate step-feeding programs.