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Optimum feed intake contributes to good piglet growth performance

Optimum feed intake contributes to good piglet growth performance

Feed refusal post weaning is both a common and costly issue faced by many pig producers. Throughout various piglet growth stages feeding transitions are necessary - but none are more drastic than the transition at weaning. During weaning piglets move from liquid feed (mothers milk) to solid feed - so feed refusal at this time should not be a surprise.

Piglets refusing feed

When a piglet refuses feed during such a vulnerable time in their young animal life, it becomes more susceptible to illness and disease; to the detriment of their lifetime performance. As a piglet's body tries to fend off disease - diarrhea, other harmful diseases or even death can occur.

The effect on ROI

Health and growth of a piglet directly correlates with the return on investment. If a piglet's health and growth is better in their young animal life, they will increase the likelihood of survival and increase lifetime performance. Hence, the more piglets with good growth performance, the more profit for the pig producer. Healthy piglet, happy producer. So, how can feed encourage a good feed shift transition?

Feed refusal with changing environment

The change from mother's milk (liquid) to solid feed is an understandable and accepted challenge. However, this is not the only change encountered by piglets at weaning. Pen size, feeder design, number of pigs per pen and management of the microclimate also change considerably and the degree of change differs from farm to farm. Despite farm hygiene and management conditions, most pig producers will be well acquainted with piglets refusing feed at this time.

The impact of low feed intake on the digestive systems

In addition to the above changes, post-weaning piglets have immature digestive systems. This combination can result in digestive distress moving the intestine into a state of chronic inflammation. Damage in the gut caused by this inflammation can reduce feed intake and use up to 30% of the piglet's energy intake. This threatens growth performance and increases the risk of infectious diseases.

Feeding strategies to overcome challenges

A robust feeding strategy is required to reduce the stress caused to piglets when going from liquid to solid feed. This includes using the correctly formulated, high quality pre-starter feed accompanied with a gradual transition to the starter feed. On-farm support of nutritional experts is critical when easing piglets through the weaning transition, especially when trying to reduce reliance on antibiotics and therapeutic zinc.

Increasing intake with feed quality and composition

The quality of the feed will help to reduce the number of piglets refusing feed. Feed quality and composition plays a large part in encouraging feed intake. The correct blend of organic acids within feed can encourage feed uptake during this period. Nutritional guidance should be part of any plan to reduce antibiotics and therapeutic zinc, but it is especially important during this vulnerable moment in a piglet's life.

Pellet hardness

The hardness of pellets has been shown to impact feed intake and ultimately piglet growth. The correct hardness and shape of pellets is important during the pre-weaning and post-weaning phases. It is particularly important in the days directly after weaning. Cargill formulation experts can provide further guidance and advice on the specific requirements to ensure optimal results.

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