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AAFC researcher solves milk production mystery with sows

AAFC researcher solves milk production mystery with sows

Back fat thickness on sows linked to mammary gland development

By Kaitlynn Anderson
Staff Reporter

Swine producers could improve piglet growth rates in their operations, thanks to new research from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC).

Today, many producers breed animals that give birth to large litters. Sometimes, sows have more piglets than they have teats, according to an article in AAFC’s March newsletter.

“When this happens, sows can't make enough milk to ensure that all of their piglets grow properly,” the article stated.

However, Dr. Chantal Farmer, an AAFC research scientist in Sherbrooke, Que., discovered a method that can help swine producers determine if their sows are producing the optimal amount of milk. 

The solution? Measuring back fat.

Near the end of their pregnancies, gilts with back fat that is too thick or too thin could have under-developed mammary glands, the article stated. Animals in this situation may not produce sufficient amounts of milk for their litters.

The optimal range for fat thickness varies by breed. For example, the back fat on Yorkshire and Landrace crosses should be between 17 mm and 26 mm thick during the late stages of their pregnancies, according to the article.

Producers can measure sows' backfat thickness "via ultrasound, which is a very easy and straightforward measure," Dr. Farmer told today.

Producers can find more information on Dr. Farmer’s research in The Gestating and Lactating Sow.



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