Controlling Sow Fever After Farrowing to Maximize Sow Feed Intake During Lactation

J. C. Pinilla, L. Thomas, and K. Weger

  • It is essential to ensure sow care during lactation in addition to piglet care.
  • Husbandry practices and feed intake during lactation have an impact on the sow’s subsequent reproductive performance.
    • Approximately 75% of sows bred each week come from the farrowing rooms as weaned sows.
  • Management practices during gestation, specifically related to sows’ body condition, can influence sow feed intake in lactation.
  • Different teams (breeding, gestation, farrowing, and lactation) within a sow farm should work together to achieve the same goal: providing the best piglet and sow care.
How litter size can be affected by feed intake

Field data collected by PIC (Figure 1) suggests that increasing feed intake of parity 1 sows during lactation can increase total born and born alive on the subsequent parity (second parity). This emphasizes the importance of feed intake in lactation and encourages prevention and mitigation strategies for factors that may be limiting feed intake. 

Figure 1: Effects of feed intake during first lactation on litter size in second parity. *

*Source: PIC North America Technical Services (unpublished).
How to identify sows that are eating less: Fever control

Fever after farrowing usually occurs because of a uterine infection when bacteria in the farrowing area or sow’s skin are carried beyond the cervix. Sows with a fever will stop eating, this change is often the first sign that something is wrong.

For timely identification and treatment of sows:

  • Body temperature should be taken ~24 hours post farrowing.
  • Lactating sows with a body temperature of ≥103° Fahrenheit (≥39.4° Celsius) are considered to have a fever.
  • Temperature collection in the morning and afternoon can help confirm a fever.

Any thermometer can be used, but newer digital thermometers provide accurate readings in a matter of seconds.

Management strategies to support high feed intake for lactating sows

The following practices will help reduce uterine infections and fever, therefore limiting eating disruptions in sows’ feed intake.

  • Scrape manure behind sows once or twice daily.
  • Limit sleeving to sows that have not birthed a piglet in 20-30 minutes since the previous piglet.
  • Wear a well-lubricated long plastic sleeve and gloves. Keep sleeves and gloves away from dust or manure.
  • Anyone sleeving sows should maintain short fingernails and should not wear jewelry on their wrist and hands.
  • Sows should have adequate water with a minimum flow of 2 Liters/minute.
    • Monitor gilts closely to ensure they can identify and utilize water sources before farrowing.