Little Pig, Little Pig

29th August 2012

Little Pig, Little Pig

As long as there are pig farms there will always be small/vulnerable piglets. We can research into the facts of how and why these occur, but in actual fact it is quite clear that as performance and production of our sows increase, so will the number of smaller piglets born.

Average litter size has increased significantly in the last 5 years. Litter size is strongly correlated to birth weight which is strongly correlated to weaning weight. A study conducted by Devenish Nutrition using AFBI (Hillsborough) data for birth weights and resulting 28 day weaning weights for 13,158 pigs found that 28% of pigs born under 1kg have the ability to reach a weaning weight of over 8kg!!! These results are very positive as they suggest that light weight pigs at birth could be encouraged through managerial practices to achieve better weaning weights.

28 day weaning is optimal, but there will always be occasions when piglets have to be weaned early and there is no chance of fostering. Smaller piglets have lower feed intakes and an immature digestive system. This is where specialised high energy, high milk, nutrient dense creep feeds can be used to advantage.

At 2-3 weeks of age, piglets have reached a stage when their digestive system is able to handle more complex carbohydrates.

These facts should help drive the decision of which creep diets to select for use in the farrowing room as the selection may have a significant effect on performance post weaning.

Pre-weaning creep management:

1. Offer fresh creep from an early age (approx. 14 days old)

This will reduce the effect of diet change at weaning, supplement the sow’s milk and promote maturity of the enzyme system.

2. Keep the feed fresh

Feed small amounts and replace uneaten feed twice daily.

3. Use a suitable feeder

Open round feeders are best suited. Ensure the feeder is placed in a suitable place within the farrowing pen and is kept clean.

4. Ensure adequate access to water

Dehydration can have a significant effect on feed intake and performance. Water quality with respect to salt levels and bacterial contamination should be checked. Upgrading the water quality in the farrowing and weaner areas has resulted in dramatic improvements in piglet performance.

5. Continue to feed the same creep diet for a few days post weaning

Following weaning, feed intake can plummet due to the stressors on the animal. A quick sustained recovery depends on feed quality, the environment and the skill of the management. Maintaining the same creep diet can help reduce this dramatic drop and avert the risk of diarrhoea!

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