7 steps to increasing weaned piglet feed intake
Adapting feeding management to piglet biology can get piglets eating within hours of weaning and avoid issues with hunger and dehydration, according to a pig nutritionist.
Writing in WattAgNet, Ioannis Mavromichalis PhD said drops in feed consumption are common in weaning as piglets take time to learn to eat dry feed.
But with the correct management — and by following seven key steps — piglets should start eating within a few hours of being placed in a nursery.
1. Buy the best-possible post-weaning diet
A well-balanced, palatable, first diet will attract piglets to the feed, and once this is accomplished a less-expensive second diet can follow.
“Feed up to 2kg if possible, but even 250g per piglet will suffice if feeding management is done correctly,” he said.
2. Start feeding on mats
Piglets instinctively look for feed on the floor, so placing a small amount of meal on their mat will allow them to taste dry feed. The same feed should then be placed in the normal feeders.
3. Use special ingredients
Additives that increase digestibility, palatability and gut health are key to ensuring pigs will eat to their maximum potential.
4. Keep the feed budget balanced
“A properly-designed feed budget allows more of a complex diet for light-weight pigs and less for heavy-weight pigs,” said Mavromichalis.
“A common mistake is to disregard the fact that heavy pigs are accustomed to consume large quantities of milk, and thus they tend to take longer than light-weight pigs to adapt to dry diets. Therefore, a small allotment of the first diet should always be budgeted even for the heaviest pigs.”
5. Milk replacers
Feeding a milk replacer for 3 to 4 days can easily double dry matter intake compared to a pelleted starter formula. However, pigs reared solely on a liquid diet may fail to relate to dry feed unless the milk replacer is combined with a high quality starter diet or milk pellets.
6. Gruel feeding
In farms where pigs are fed dry diets on a regular basis, a warm gruel (50:50) of feed and water can be offered to weaned pigs in special bowl-type feeders during the first 2 to 3 days post-weaning. This practice prevents starvations and dehydration.
7. Creep feeding
Assuming piglets are weaning after 21 days of age, creep feeding should start as soon as 4 days of age.
“Even though piglets will not consume enough creep feed to provide a tangible benefit at weaning, their experience with creep feed will make them come sooner to dry feed in normal feeders, reducing the need for mat or gruel feeding,” he said.