Around ten years ago, we could not even hear about Ad-libitum feeding in the farrowing compartments. The idea was to feed the sows specially from the middle age of lactation with small amounts of food, many times a day. With this procedure it could be avoided the overfeeding of the sows with huge portion. There are still farms where is no ad-lib feeders and the sows are fed 7 times a day. We have to admit that the sow appetite during 24 hours is variating. The highest food intake of a lactating sow is at the morning feedings, later the appetite is dropping.
Today we are facing very modern, (mechanical and digital) technologies, which can help us to obtain very good results. First of all, the ad- lib feeders enable less manual work, and reduce the food waste. The most interesting most useful thing is that the sow is controlling the daily feeding curve, and helps to avoid the daily food intake’s lifts (up and down). It is important to keep in mind that the sow’s milk production is related to the appetite.
To answer for your next question which I believe is all right to ask, “the sow will end up playing with the food” or “the sow will overfeed herself”, but based on self-experience this will not happen. It will be always some extreme behaviour (approx. 0,5-1 percent of the sows), but not for long time, only until the sows get used to the new way of feeding. The theory is the same like for the nursery piglets. If we point out a piglet, and we would look on the behavior around the ad-libitum feeders, piglets are only using in extreme way the technology when they are stressed or find out that is new. After they get used to it - the feeders are only used when the piglets eat. Based again on self-experience, when the sow is set in the farrowing compartment, up to 10 days after farrowing the feeding has to be limited (by the 10th days after farrowing must reach 7-7,5 Kg/day intake). These days are actually the time when we teach the sow the technology and because she can’t go in excess with the feedd volume, it will not be a question of overfeeding. The Ad-libitum feeding method helps us to get calmer sows and higher weaning weights and litters.