In the last couple years, I have observed a resurgence in creep feeding. Not only in smaller, family type operations, but also in larger settings where labor has always been in short supply.
By creep feeding we normally mean the provision of a dry diet, usually pellets, but for the sake of this discussion let’s also include liquid milk replacers, and even any other nutritional supplement offered to piglets before weaning as a means of boosting their growth.
The main reason I was given when I asked about this increase in popularity of creep feeding was the increasing number of piglets born alive per litter. As is well known, with each piglet born, total milk yield increases but milk intake per piglet decreases. In other words, the sow tries but fails to keep up with an increasing demand. Given that modern genetics aim for super hyper-prolific sows (exceeding 30 piglets per year per sow, now), it comes as no surprise that lower birth and weaning weights are observed with these developments.
So, this brings back into attention pre-weaning nutrition, but also post-weaning nutrition, as a
lighter pig at weaning requires even more complex diets than the same pig (same age) at a heavier weight.
So, perhaps what we achieve with increased prolificacy we lose by reduced weaning weight even after increasing weaning age - now this is an interesting thought! Nevertheless, we must cope with these smaller piglets and of course supplementary nutrition before weaning is certainly one of the tools we must employ. I would be interested to read what works best in your conditions (please, specify them), being either a certain production system or a new source of genetics, when it comes to creep feeding!