Constipation of lactating sows

The occurrence of constipation in sows has been on the rise in recent years. Constipation is often seen in the farrowing section pre-farrowing, when the sow is lying on her stomach and has hard, knobbly faeces.

Written by: Sales Manager Cristian Calin Chisiu and Pig Consultant Louise Søndergaard Lundstad

Causes

One cause of this growing trend could be that sows are loose during the gestation period, and then confined in the farrowing section. This results in the sow going from being active to inactive, which has a negative effect on gut contraction, resulting in a constricted birth canal, causing more stillborn piglets. Constipation also causes a loss of appetite, and thus impaired milk production, which in turn affects production results. 

Causes of constipation can be:

  • Low fluid intake
  • Low fibre content in the mixture
     

How to solve it?

If sows have acute constipation, administering ‘Glauber's salt’ (sodium sulphate decahydrate) daily can help, from when they are transferred to the farrowing section, until post-farrowing. Glauber's salt causes the sow to drink more water, which results in softer faeces. A functional mix of 50 g Glauber's salt + 50 g dextrose per sow per day usually has the desired effect. If the faeces becomes too soft, we recommend adjusting down to 30 g of each ingredient.

Another solution which can help in the acute constipation treatment can be the manual administration in the farrowing stable of 200 ml of vegetable oil once per day. The vegetable oil should preferably be given before the morning feeding directly in the trough with 5-7 days prior farrowing for all the sows and it can be continued after farrowing for individual treatment if needed. As an advantage - compared to Glauber salt - the oil is providing some extra energy for the sows, which can help at farrowing.

Prevention

Constipation can be prevented by high-fibre feed, which alters passage speed through the gut, and retains water.  You can either increase the amount of beet pellets in the lactating feed, or by adding a fibre supplement from entering the farrowing section until post-farrowing. More and more are also using fixed doses of Glauber's salt for lactating sows with the above mix ratio and dose.
An important principle is also that the sows have plenty of water available. Always check before transferring to the farrowing section that the water valves give 7-8 litres of water per minute.

In general it is very important to monitor all the sows. Especially the first parity sows when arriving in the farrowing stable. The aim being to find out if they know how to drink water from the water nipples. If they come from the gestation stable where they were used to drink water from another water system - eg. with constant level or water cups - sometimes they need to be trained or tought how to open the water nipples. 

If you have any questions regarding constipation, please contact our Pig Consultants here