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Creep feeding does definitely pay off

Dr Ioannis Mavromichalis
Even though creep-feeding is an old theme, I am quite often asked (especially when producers switch around weaning age) whether it pays off. Simply put, it does! But, there are certain conditions that must be met for this feed management tool to work properly.

Even though creep-feeding is an old theme, I am quite often asked (especially when producers switch around weaning age) whether it pays off. Simply put, it does! But, there are certain conditions that must be met for this feed management tool to work properly.

Weaning age
The first such condition is the weaning age of the piglets. For piglets to fully benefit from creep-feeding, they must have sufficient time to consume around 500 grammes before weaning.

When pigs are weaned around 15-18 days of age, creep feed intake is rarely over 100 grammes per pig. Thus, the only benefit that can be claimed is that pigs at least realise pellets as a form of nourishment.

Problem
But, there is one big problem following such limited and early exposure to dry feed, in that the gastro-intestinal system might be prematurely triggered to a delayed hypersensitivity reaction if the feed contains any source of soybeans.

This usually manifests itself in the form of profuse diarrhoea after weaning when pigs start consuming larger quantities of feed whilst any protective effect of mother's milk is removed.

Thus, for very early weaned pigs, it is best not to offer any creep feed at all. In contrast, when weaning weights must be boosted, it is strongly advised to offer them a milk replacer.

Bypassing the danger
In contrast, when pigs are weaned around 25 days of age, creep feed intake approaches the limit of 500 grammes of pigs, bypassing thus the danger of delayed hypersensitivity reaction.

In this case, pigs not only become rapidly accustomed in consuming dry feed, but they are also weaned markedly heavier. A quite recent report has indicated that such pigs might actually be weaned at 28 days of age as much as one kilo heavier than their counterparts receiving no creep feed.

Therefore, with later weaning ages, as currently practiced throughout Europe, creep feeding must be a common feature in the feeding programme.

Successful
When pigs are weaned around 35 days of age, creep feeding is so successful that it is often advisable to discontinue offering the initial feed after one week and replace it with a less dense/ complex diet to prevent pigs from scouring from overfeeding!

There are two more aspects of creep feeding that must be combined to make this management technique work properly. These are feed quality and management, but for these we will have to wait for the next blog…

4 comments

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    Mike Varley

    Creep feeding in my view - always has benefits - in terms of enzyme development, immune development, weight accretion and adaptation to dry feed. There are some key elements to making it work. Firstly, the feed itself must be highly palatable (highly digestible) Second, the activity must be worked hard on - frequent offering of creep feed, freshness, hygiene in the troughs, trough selection and so on. In our studies we can add a whole 1 kg on to the weaning weight when we get it right !!

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    Michael Gayle

    What would be a good ratio mix of corn and soyameal used as creep feed?

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    Ioannis Mavromichalis

    An excellent summary, Mike...Thanks!

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    Ioannis Mavromichalis

    Michael, a typical commercial creep diet would contain very little if any soybean meal to avoid gastrointestinal upsets. Instead, it would contain milk, vegetable, animal proteins of very high digestibility. My recommendation would be to have all cereals in cooked form.

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