Over the entire study period, the sows were maintained in the same treatment group and were offered either a control or a probiotic mash diet. Cross-fostering to equalise litter size to approximately 14 piglets per litter was carried out within 24h after farrowing and occurred within the same treatment group. Suckling piglets were offered creep feed from 7 days of age to weaning (25 days of age), with or without probiotics depending on the treatment of the sow. The addition of the probiotic in sow diets significantly reduced losses of body weight and back fat in the critical lactation period. The difference in body weight measured 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 (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 has 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 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 E. 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. Use of dietary probiotics could be part of the solution to improve sow longevity, from an economic, health and welfare point of view. Improving gut health and feed efficiency support the high productive sow to maintain her body condition and at the same time, produce enough milk for a better growth of her suckling piglets. Higher weaning weights in combination with a more optimal intestinal microflora, give piglets a better start after weaning. The feed cost reduction in the gestation period, to compromise the weight losses in the previous lactation, can save €13/sow/year based on the results of the trial at the Free University of Berlin. Besides feed cost savings, reducing the lactation losses has a positive influence on the fertility, performance of the sow in the next reproduction cycle and subsequent litter uniformity. Overall, probiotics are able to support health, fertility and productivity, and thereby the longevity of the sows.
* Calsporin, 30 ppm inclusion