Regulating Feed Intake of Group Housed Gilts by Altering Dietary Cation/Anion Difference

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2010: $9,450.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Grant Recipient: Illinois State University
Region: North Central
State: Illinois
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Paul Walker
Illinois State University


  • Agronomic: corn, soybeans
  • Animals: swine


  • Animal Production: feed additives, feed formulation, feed rations, housing
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research

    Proposal abstract:

    In the interest of animal welfare, group housing for gestating sows is becoming increasingly prevalent which presses the need of an efficient and easily-managed group feeding system. Feeding systems used for gestating sows must provide for limited energy (feed) intake while being inexpensive to implement. The use of self-feeders would be an ideal low cost, low maintenance option for producers utilizing group-housed gestation systems, however, over-consumption of feed may be a problem. The objectives of this study are to determine a level of dietary cation-anion difference (DCAD) that will allow group-housed gilts to self-regulate their feed intake to meet their daily energy requirements. In addition, this research will analyze nutrient digestibility of the experimental diets. Ninety mature gilts will be housed 5 per pen and offered one of three dietary treatments (6 reps per treatment) ad libitum for 45 days. The treatment diets will consist of one of the following varying levels of DCAD: 50, -250, or -400 mEq/kg. Weight and backfat measurements will be taken, and feed disappearance will be recorded weekly throughout each trial. Feed and fecal samples will be collected and analyzed for dry matter, nitrogen, and energy digestibility. Based on limited available data, we predict our experimental diets will allow gilts to self-regulate their feed intake to prevent excessive weight gain.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The short-term objective of the proposed research is to gain insight on the appropriate formulation of diets using varying dietary cation/anion difference (DCAD) that will allow mature gilts to self-regulate their energy (feed) intake. Once a diet that allows gilts to self-regulate intake to meet energy requirements is found, then the intermediate goals of this project are to utilize the results of this study and apply it to feeding gestating sows.

    The short- and intermediate-term objectives will be most beneficial to academic and industry researchers interested in gaining knowledge on this potential feeding management of gestating sows. If results of these studies are positive, the long-term objective of this research is to feed an appropriate level of DCAD to gestating sows and measure long-term reproductive performance. The expense, and risk, of a study of that magnitude makes it necessary to test the ideas in smaller studies. Once the long-term objectives of this study are recognized (sow production data), this information will be useful to all swine producers as it will provide clear information on the potential impact of adopting this type of gestation feeding management. It is likely that this feeding strategy will result in significant improvements in profitability for swine producers, especially those who may be considering renovations of current facilities.

    The long-term objective of this research is to develop a feeding strategy for group-housed sows that will allow producers to use an inexpensive, easily-managed feeding system that prevents over-consumption of feed and still provides for the well-being of the animal.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.