Nutrition During Lactation

Lactation is the process of making milk - in this case for the piglets to eat. Sow’s milk provides the best nutrition there is for young pigs. It is high in protein, energy, vitamins, and minerals that baby pigs need to grow and thrive.

The first milk from the sow during and after farrowing is called colostrum. This special milk contains antibodies against diseases the sow has encountered and protects piglets from those diseases for about the first three weeks of life. It is critical that each piglet receives one good meal of colostrum to get off to a good start.

It’s very important to the health and welfare of the baby pigs that sows begin eating very quickly after farrowing. Proper pre-farrowing feed management helps to ensure sows begin eating quickly.

The nutrients needed to produce milk for a litter of baby pigs can come from one of two places: feed eaten by the sow, or the sow’s body reserves. Ideally, most of the nutrients needed for producing milk should come from feed. If the sow uses her body reserves, she may be too thin to return to estrous and be re-bred after weaning.

Lactation is not a time to skimp on feed. Sows need large quantities of nutritious feed (and water) to make milk for their piglets. Starting sows on feed immediately after farrowing is the most challenging task.