The addition of the probiotic in sow diets significantly reduced
losses of body weight and back fat in the critical lactation period.
From the end of gestation until the end of lactation, the sows lost 30
– 45 kg body weight of which 25 – 27 kg was related to the birth of the
piglets (blue part of the bars, figure 1). The difference in body weight
immediately after farrowing and after weaning gives a clear insight on
the weight losses related to the negative energy balance in the lactation
period. Use of the dietary probiotic resulted in a significantly lower body weight loss of almost 10 kg (cycle 1) and 5 kg (cycle 2) difference compared to the control group (green part of the bars, figure 1). At the same time, the probiotic positively influenced milk production as the dietary treatment resulted in larger piglets at weaning (+ 300 gram) with higher litter weaning weights (table 1). Additionally the weaning-to-oestrus interval reduced, resulting in less non-productive days. Finally the probiotic was also shown to have a positive influence on the incidence of Mastitis-Metritis-Agalactia (MMA) syndrome.
Optimal gut health
For a sow to achieve high milk production and maintain body condition during the lactation period, optimal gut health and nutrient absorption are essential. Improvements of the faecal consistency (table 1) and faecal microflora were also observed in the group of animals which received a diet with probiotics, in both the sow and her suckling piglets. At weaning age, increased numbers of the health related Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species were found while lower amounts of the Clostridium clusters and the Escherichia group were observed. Clostridium perfringens and Escherichia coli are often related to intestinal infections and diarrhoea. These results are in line with the beneficial effects seen in piglets using the probiotic in diets after weaning.
Probiotics support sow longevity
Increased lifespan of the sow is recognized as an important parameter from both economic and welfare point of view. Improvements in lifespan can result in decreased replacement costs and a greater proportion of adult sows in the herd that have reached their peak of reproductive performance. Increasing lifespan is complex as many factors are involved including feeding strategies, herd genetics, farm management, climate and profession of farm personnel. The term longevity is often used, although parameters to measure sow longevity and even the definition of longevity varies per researcher. However, they have one message in common namely ‘extend the productive lifetime of sows’.
Use of dietary probiotics could be part of the solution to improve sow longevity, from the economic, health and welfare points of view. Improving gut health and feed efficiency support the highly productive sow to maintain her body condition and at the same time, produce enough milk for better growth of her suckling piglets (figure 2). Higher weaning weights in combination with a more optimal intestinal microflora, give piglets a better start after weaning.