PIG - Creep Feeding - Importance of the First Seven Days of Life

23 Jan 2017

The importance of how we treat the pig in the first seven days post weaning is often underestimated. This is one of the most traumatic times in a young pig’s life. Up until this point, the piglet has lived exclusively within a small group of around 10 to 14, fed on mother’s milk and hopefully has had provided to it a quantity of quality creep feed. Weaning day brings about many changes including the move to a different building, larger housing groups and for the first time, no mother to provide any nutrition or psychological support.

By beginning to creep feed in the farrowing crate we have started the process of conditioning the young pig’s digestive system to accommodate solid foods and this process must continue post weaning to ensure the best potential performance and health. Quality nutrition is paramount at this point, with price per tonne becoming less relevant when you consider that most pigs will only consume 1-2kg of first stage starter feed. However, accessibility to feed is equally important as the quality of that feed. A significant percentage of freshly weaned pigs do not take to ad libitum type feeders in the early post weaning period, so it is essential to provide ancillary feeding opportunities in the first five to seven days.

At this point in a young pig’s life, stimulation to feed at regular intervals and in groups (reminiscent of suckling as a litter) is also critical to achieve best possible intakes. Pre weaning, the piglet has been on a fundamentally liquid diet, so the importance of adequate availability of fresh water cannot be understated. Providing water with the correct pH level is also essential to suppressing the post-weaning spike in gut pathogen load, optimising protein utilisation and thereby maximising performance. In this regard, the correct pH is just at or slightly below four. Dosing with an appropriate blend of organic acids with algaecidal action needs to be accurate and may require a powered doser to be used, with routine pH checks carried out using a pH meter.

Remember there will be a variation in size of pigs you have weaned, with the difference between the largest pigs and the smallest often being as much as 4kg. This means freshly weaned pigs should be ‘sized up’ so they can be fed the appropriate diet and can compete with their peers more effectively. Sizing piglets at this age will, without doubt, result in improved performance and reduced mortality. It will also lead to more even growth throughout the rest of the growing period, which in turn will result in better utilisation of finishing pens and due to the reduction in variability, will increase total kilogrammes of meat sold off the unit.

Harbro’s pig specialists have demonstrated on a number of customer farms, that improved attention to detail in this critical period has a significantly beneficial effect on lifetime performance, in particular reducing slaughter
age and/or increasing average weights. We have a range of specialist ‘young pig’ products, which, coupled with the correct management at the most critical time in a pig’s life, will enhance your unit’s performance and profitability.

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