In a factorial experiment the effect of two protein intakes and three patterns of feeding in the second pregnancy of 48 Large White x Wessex Saddleback sows was examined. The high protein (HP) diet (19·5% crude protein) contained 15% white fish meal. The low protein (LP) diet (10·5% crude protein) contained cereal protein only. Nutrient components of the diets differed in protein only. The pattern treatments involved allowances of 1·8 kg (L), 2·7 kg (C) and 3·6 kg (H) per day, the three pregnancy patterns being HL, C and LH with the changeovers made from the 49th to the 63rd day post coitum (p.c). Sows on the three pattern treatments received the same total amount of feed from 0–112 days p.c. and were treated alike at farrowing and during lactation.
Fertility and parturition results were similar for all treatments, but the number of piglets alive after birth (when weighed) was least for LP sows on the HL pattern. At 3 weeks of age the size and weight of litters on HP sows were significantly greater than those on LP sows (P < 0·05 and < 0·001 respectively). More piglets were weaned by HP sows than LP sows (P < 0·05). HP sows gained more weight in pregnancy (P < 0·001) which was slightly longer, and lost more weight in lactation (P < 0·05) than LP sows.
The HL pattern of feeding was associated with smaller live weight gains in pregnancy than the LH pattern (P < 0·001) and the total birth weight of HL litters was lighter than LH (P < 0·05), mean piglet weights being similar. Lactation performance was unaffected by pattern treatment.
The main conclusion is that a low intake, particularly during the latter half of pregnancy, of protein which is of vegetable origin, is associated with decreased viability of the piglets at birth and in early suckling life, and with lower capacity of the sows for milk production.