4 Strategies for getting weaned pigs started on feed

25-07 | |
Feed intake in the first few days post-weaning is critical. The diet should be changed gradually.
Feed intake in the first few days post-weaning is critical. The diet should be changed gradually.

Feeding strategies for weaned pigs should be evaluated on a regular basis to ensure better results.

Areas that should be regularly evaluated include:

  • Greater liveability,

  • Less morbidity,

  • Enhanced labour efficiency,

  • Greater weight gain,

  • Improved feed efficiency,

  • Greater percentage of full-value pigs,

  • Heavier carcass weight

  • Improved financial performance.

Consider the following strategies to get weaned pigs set up for a good start on feed.

1. Quantification methods

The use of subjective indicators such as body condition score is a typical method used in the swine industry to start pigs on feed. More often these indicators are observed and monitored but not quantified. It is recommended to use quantification methods. Studies show that weight gain during the first week post-weaning will help pigs get off to a better start on feed. It is therefore suggested to select random samples of pig weight by individually tagging and weighing about 100 pigs (5 pigs from about 20 pens). In the next step determine the weight distribution and mean of the data to see if 80% of the pigs gained more than 2 lbs (approx. 1 kg) in the first week. This method will provide a general idea of how the system is working on a particular pig farm.

Improved feed efficiency can support industry competitiveness, reduce the demand on global feed resources and support environmental sustainability. There are nutritional strategies that can be implemented to improve feed efficiency and most of these methods have a direct impact on improving pig gut health which ultimately leads to better feed conversion. This article discusses the opportunities for improving sow feed efficiency.

2. Change the way the feed is presented to the pigs

Feed presentation to pigs is important for early intake and feed is best offered on trays on a flat surface or in a dedicated bowl away from the dunging area, at the same time as when the sows are feeding as this is when the pigs will be most active and at their hungriest. It is suggested to start with a small quantity of high energy, protein rich, fresh, palatable rations and add feed supplements, such as organic acids, essential oils, probiotics and enzymes to improve digestion and gut integrity.

3. Alter the diet gradually

Weaning is a stressful event in a pig’s life and any sudden changes in the diet will reduce pig performance. Therefore, feed intake in the first few days post-weaning is critical. It is necessary to change the diet gradually and to offer the same diet as fed pre-weaning for approximately a week to provide some constancy and to mimic the nutrition that the piglet received when suckling. The post-weaning ration should be revised up to three times over the course of the weaner phase, depending on individual systems, such as the genetic leanness of the breed, environment, feed-consumption patterns and carcass characteristics. Feeding milk replacer for a short period post-weaning can also help to improve pig growth and gut health. As the pig grows, more raw cereals and vegetable proteins can be added in accordance with the digestive enzyme development of the pig.

4. Provide an adequate water supply

Lack of proper water intake is the number one limiting factor to feed intake. Therefore, a good supply of clean fresh water is essential. Newly-weaned pigs can become rapidly dehydrated and need ready access to drinking water. Proper positioning and sanitation of watering devices (either nipple or bowl drinkers) are essential elements for adequate pig hydration.

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