Gilts that suffer a productivity drop in their second litter risk a continued trend of poorer performance in later parities, according to Dutch pig expert Professor Bas Kemp.

Speaking at a British Pig Executive sow productivity seminar in the UK recently, Prof Kemp said: “‘Second litter drop syndrome’ is related to weight loss during a gilt’s first lactation – a situation which arises when the gilt still needs to grow, but at the same time has to produce milk for her litter.”

He highlighted the important factors to improve reproductive performance in the first lactation, pointing out that: “The feeding strategy should aim to prevent drops in feed intake. The best way to do this is to gradually increase feed intake from 2kg on the day of farrowing up to an ad-lib supply by the end of the first week.

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“It is very important that gilts are not over fed in early lactation. Feeding levels can also be too high in late pregnancy. There are indications that high feeding levels, resulting in fat sows at the end of pregnancy, can reduce mammary gland development.”

While more highly concentrated diets were also be an option, Prof Kemp warned producers that extra fat in the diet could lead to increased fat content in the milk and fatter piglets, rather than gilt growth and improved condition.