Performance and individual feed intake characteristics of group-housed sows fed a nonstarch polysaccharides diet ad libitum during gestation over three parities

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The objective of this experiment was to study the effects of feeding group-housed gestating sows a diet with a high level of fermentable nonstarch polysaccharides (NSP; approximately 45% sugar beet pulp as fed) ad libitum on the development in individual feed intake characteristics and reproductive performance during three successive reproduction cycles. Performance of the ad libitum-fed sows was compared to the performance of sows that were fed a conventional diet restrictedly. Feed intake characteristics during gestation were only measured in the ad libitum-fed sows. One hundred and nineteen sows were assigned to one of two gestation feeding regimens. Gestating sows were fed a conventional Dutch diet restrictedly or a diet with a high level of fermentable NSP ad libitum. During lactation, sows were given free access to a commercial lactation diet from d 6 after parturition onward. The ad libitum-fed sows ate 1.3 kg/d more during gestation than the restrictedly fed sows (P <0.001), resulting in higher body weight and backfat gains during gestation (P <0.05). Sows that were fed ad libitum during gestation lost more body weight and backfat during lactation (P <0.001) than sows that were fed restrictedly during gestation. Feed intake during lactation, however, did not differ between sows that were fed restrictedly or ad libitum during gestation. The numbers of total piglets born, live-born and stillborn piglets, piglet birth weight, weaning-to-estrus interval, and percentage of sows that returned to estrus after first insemination were not affected by gestation feeding regimen. Mean daily voluntary feed intake (as-fed basis) over the three reproduction cycles in the ad libitum-fed gestating sows was 4.2 kg/d. Depending on the number of preceding reproduction cycles during which a sow was fed ad libitum, the maximum voluntary feed intake was reached in Parity 3, 4, or 5 and then remained stable in subsequent parities. Mean daily feed intake of the ad libitum-fed sows increased from wk 2 to 6 of gestation and then decreased to wk 15 of gestation. The mean number of daily visits with feed intake over the three reproduction cycles was 13.8. On average, ad libitum-fed sows spent 90 min/d on eating. This study shows that it is possible to feed gestating sows a diet with a high level of fermentable NSP ad libitum during three successive reproduction cycles without negative effects on reproductive performance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1246-1257
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2004



  • primiparous lactating sows
  • reproductive-performance
  • body-composition
  • pregnant sows
  • fiber
  • nutrition
  • behavior
  • weight
  • pigs
  • level

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