Composition and form of piglet feed before and after weaning may influence performance

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Dr Dominiek Maes, head of the porcine health management unit, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Belgium, was presenting during Trouw Nutrition’s LifeStart Swine Online Conference, held earlier this month.

Evidently, factors such as birthweight, piglet vitality, colostrum and milk production by the sows are imperative for further health and performance, and they may have long lasting effects, he said.

The stress caused by weaning is unavoidable, he said. “Piglets have to cope with the loss of lactogenic immunity which predisposes them to more infections.”

But there are also a lot of different non-infectious factors that should be enhanced in order to avoid losses and to maintain optimal performance of piglets post weaning, said Dr Maes.

Pre-weaning nutrition

Looking at management practices preweaning, particularly in the case where the number of piglets exceeds the number of teats on the sow due to today’s large litter sizes, he outlined how some farms practice split suckling or cross fostering to ensure homogeneity and maintain piglet vitality.

In terms of feed approaches pre-weaning, it is important to provide sufficient creep feed.

“The recommendation now is to start with creep feed early, during the first week of a piglet’s life,” ​he stressed.

Many studies have shown that creep feed is important to help support the maturation of the gut microbiome even if piglets tend to have a low intake, said the swine expert.

The composition of creep feed is key and can also help piglets adapt to weaning diets, he added.

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