Optimising nutrition during the pre-farrowing period

Author – Dr Dave Cadogan


There have been some significant gains in the number of total born piglets over the past 2-3 years. However, as the number of total born increases so does the duration of farrowing time (parturition) and the increased chance of stillbirths, low variability piglets due to low energy reserves and chance of hypoxia. This leads to increased assisted births, sow treatments and increased early piglet mortality.




Feed intake, particularly energy intake, needs to be restricted to between 37 and 40 MJ/kg DE or 2.5kg-3kg per day to reduce incidence of agalactia/mastitis and to maximise feed intake and subsequent milk production in lactation.

The main problem that if the pre-farrow/lactation diet is only offered once a day (normally in the morning) the animal has reduced energy reserves in the afternoon and evening where most farrowings occur.

The results in a large commercial trial presented in Roger Campbells nutrition update, earlier in the year by 30 and Up consulting, shows increasing meal times from 1 to 4,  halved the still births. This was halved again by instigating a night feeding.

Other studies by an APL funded Rivalea study (Fan et al, 2019) showed increasing the number of meals before farrowing significantly reduced farrowing duration, still births, reduced weaning to re-mating interval, reduce number culled sows and significantly increased subsequent born alive.

BUT with labour storages and increases in wages the process of increasing meal times, particularly in the late afternoon and evening is extremely difficult.

One of the SOLUTIONS is to install an automatic farrow feeder.

The Nedap Farrow Feeder can be programmed to feed sows all through the day and night and can be installed under most farrowing feeder reservoirs. The farrow feeder also comes with a sensor that measures sow activity therefore staff can be notified if the animal hasn™t moved/feed for a period of time.

The farrow feeder significantly reduces staff requirements in the farrowing house and may save up to 0.75 labour units. Other significant benefits where the Nedap Farrow Feeders have been installed  mirror the research findings, which include reduced weaner to mating interval by 0.5 days, higher feed intakes and weaning weights particularly during summer (more night meals) and increased subsequent born alive.

The cost of each farrow feeder is a little under $500 per farrowing crate. The calculated rate of return on saving labour and increased performance is upwards of 4 to 1.


Additional things to consider in pre-farrowing are:

  • Increasing insoluble fibre with high water holding capacity. This prolongs the retention of energy by up to 2 fold in the sow. Minimum NDF of 18% and water holding capacity of 2.5%.
  • The addition of 400ppb of organic chromium maximises energy uptake of the cells.
  • Maximize the level of Creatine Phosphate or ATP in the sow and young pig through the addition of GAA (Creamino).
  • Increased levels of lysine, valine and threonine to maximise udder development


Please refer to two links for more detail on improving sow and piglet performance by optimising prefarrow nutrition.

Updates on Pre-farrow nutrition PC QLD

Zinpro Prefarrow