How Much Do You Feed Bred Sows And Bred Gilts?

Berkshire cross sow with 10 piglets

We all know that the amount and quality of feed to give your breeding stock is vital to the health, as well as the productivity, of your pigs .

For the beginner, properly feeding for the changing needs of your breeding stock can be confusing. How much feed should sows and breeding age gilts get per day?

Bred sows and gilts need 4 pounds of 12% feed for the first 2.5 moths of gestation, which increases (based on body condition) to 6 pounds for last 1.5 months and 6 pounds plus .5 pounds of feed per piglet per day of a 17.6% feed for lactation.

Gestation 12% feed
For first 2.5 months
4 pounds each per day
(monitor body condition)
Gestation 12% feed
For the last 1.5 months
up to 6 pounds each per day
(monitor body condition)
Day of farrowingWater only, no feed
Lactation 17.6% feed6 pounds per day for sow
AND .5 pounds per piglet

Go to my article Pig Feed Rations if you want instructions on mixing your own rations for all ages and growth stages of pigs.

Here’s the same information in video form, with some piglet footage, of course!

The first 2.5 months of a gestation ration is maintenance feeding

You will be giving your bred sows and/or gilts 4 pounds of a 12% feed each per day.

It is important to remember that the first 2.5 months of gestation are fed at a maintenance level. You are not doing anything out of the ordinary here, just helping your bred sow or gilt keep a healthy weight.

Feeding your bred sows and gilts twice a day

I like to feed our bred sows twice per day, meaning I divide up the total feed for the day and give them half during morning chores and the other half during evening chores.

This time I had the two bred sows and the boar in the same pen for the majority of the gestation.

Since the first part of gestation feeding and their normal maintenance ration are the same (boars and sows) I feed them together.

The math is easy. I had 3 adults in the pen each getting 4 pounds of feed per day. 3 x 4 =12 pounds of feed for the pen per day

Since I feed twice per day, I would feed 6 pounds to the group at each feeding.

As long as the sows are in good condition (not fat!), I can keep them in with the boar, which is easier for me.

When the sows look like they need a bit more feed in the last 1.5 months of gestation, they need to be separated out from the boar to keep him at ideal weight.

Is Raising Your Own Pigs For Meat Worth It? gives you a basic budget for raising your pigs from feeders to finished.

Increase feed for the last 1.5 months of gestation

You can gradually increase the feed per bred sow or gilt up to 6 pounds of feed each per day for the last 1.5 months of gestation, if needed. Big emphasis here on if.

This is the time you must be monitoring body condition of your bred sows and gilts. Look at the tail head.

If you can easily see the ridge of the tail head, she needs a bit more feed. If her tail head looks like the tail head on the boar, do not increase her feed.

Only increase the feed if body condition of your bred sows and gilts make this necessary. Do not automatically increase feed.

This breeding cycle for my two sows, I did not increase feed until the last 3-4 weeks. They didn’t need the extra feed until later in gestation.

Don’t get hung up on the dates or the poundages, the important part here is body condition.

A slight twist on the saying “keep them lean and mean” is what we are going for here. For breeding stock pigs it would be more accurate to say “keep them lean to keep them healthy and prolific”.

Think of your breeding stock as athletes. An athlete needs to be in top shape to perform their best, it’s the same for your breeding stock.

Cost To Raise Your Own Feeder Pigs gives you a run down of the costs of keeping a sow versus buying feeder pigs.

Water only on farrowing day

Make sure your pig mom to be has water when she starts farrowing, but no feed. Leave her alone during farrowing.

When she is in active labor, she’s not thinking of food, but your knocking around will bother her when she hears you.

You don’t want to disrupt the process. Take a quick quiet look to make sure the piglets are okay then leave.

I skip the feed for an entire 24 hour period.

Once the piglets are all born, she’ll want water. Be sure she has plenty, otherwise don’t disturb her.

blue butt sow with her new piglets
Our blue butt sow, Whitney with her new litter.

Lactation ration varies by litter size

Once your sow has past her 24 hour fasting, start her on the lactation ration. This will be a 17.6-18% feed specifically for milking sows. You’ll use this feed for the entire lactation.

I start with the base of 6 pounds the first day and go up by .5 pounds per feeding until I get to the total ration for that sow.

Each sow needs 6 pounds plus .5 pounds per piglet

Your sow needs to be getting 6 pounds to support herself and .5 pounds for each piglet in the litter.

Here is an example: your sow had a litter of 8 piglets.

For the sow: 6 pounds

For the piglets: .5 x 8 piglets=4 pounds for the litter

Total feed: 10 pounds of feed each day

Increase feed by .5 pounds per feeding

As long as my sows are quickly eating the feed I give them, I’ll continually increase the feed by .5 pounds the next feeding up to their daily total (based on litter size).

If she does not seem interested in the feed or does not eat it all quickly, I don’t increase the feed at the next feeding.

You are estimating what your sow needs. You will need to watch her and adjust your feeding to suit her needs.

My older sow did not finish her feed for one feeding time this round, but was back to eating well that night. I was increasing the feed too quickly for her on that day, so I slowed down a bit.

The younger sow ate everything I gave her at every feeding. For this gal, my feeding plan seemed to work well.

Here is what my feeding schedule looks like:

Day 1: farrowing, no feed only water

Day 2: 6 pounds in a.m. and 6.5 pounds in p.m.

Day 3: 7 pounds in a.m. and 7.5 pounds in p.m.

Day 4: 8 pounds in a.m. and 8.5 pounds in p.m.

Day 5: 9 pounds in a.m. and 9.5 pounds in p.m.

Continue increasing the feed until you reach the amount needed per day based on litter size.

Remember, since you are feeding twice per day, only feed half of the daily total per feeding.

If you want to feed once per day, try it and see. I always do twice per day, so I can check the sow and the piglets more often.

If you prefer to increase the feed at a different rate, try it and see how your sow is responding. Make sure you are up to the litter size based total by the end of the first week.

How Many Pigs Do You Need To Make A Profit? goes over the numbers you’ll need to have figured out if to see if your pigs are making you money.

Weigh the sow’s feed, never guess

You must weigh the feed. Do not guess.

If you don’t want to weigh the feed at each feeding, put a mark on the container you are using.

We use plastic coffee cans. I could easily put a permanent marker line at the appropriate amount for each sow. I prefer to weigh, but a marked container would work fine.

Always monitor sow body condition

No matter what the numbers say, always monitor body condition!

These numbers are a great starting point for most sows but will not be perfect, of course, for all sows in all situations.

If you are giving your sow the calculated amount for 8 piglets, which is 10 pounds of feed per day, and she is looking thin or run down, give her more.

Your sow may need her feed adjusted, especially if she is on pasture or farrowing in cold weather. Use these calculations at first and adjust if needed.

Do not overfeed sows!

Do not base your feeding amounts off of what the sow wants by “asking you for more”. As long as she is in good shape, stay strong and stick to the calculated totals.

My two sows “beg” like this all the time. It is because they are alert and happy in good (athletic) condition, not because they are needing more feed.

Don’t give in! Fat sows have problems, here’s an article that goes into the details.

Overly fat sows have birth problems, milk less and have a shorter productive life (see article linked above) meaning, she’ll need to be culled for low or no production.

Breeding stock pigs are athletes and athletes perform or are replaced.

Feed the calculated and weighed amounts twice per day based on body condition alone.

Post weaning feed sow 4 pounds per day

Once you wean the piglets, your sows should go back to the 4 pounds per day on a 12% feed.

This is a maintenance level feeding ration and, as you may remember, the early gestation ration as well.

Ideally, your sows will breed back right away so you won’t really have her on maintenance for very long, it will be early gestation. Either way, it’s the same feed!

For any first timers: first off congratulations on getting through your first litter of pigs!

Secondly, (just so you are aware) as soon as you wean the piglets the sow will come into heat in 3 days. Now you’re ready for the cycle to start again!

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