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Colostrum intake at birth sets up pig for life

How much colostrum a piglet consumes on day 1 impacts the pig’s performance for the rest of its life, according to a North Carolina State University study.1

The researchers designed the study to determine how important piglet birth weight (BW) and colostrum intake (gain) are on pig survival, weaning weight and future performance.

Hog-unit personnel monitored 61 second-parity sows during farrowing. Every piglet was caught at birth, dried and weighed prior to first suckle. The pigs were weighed after 24 hours and again at 21-day weaning age. Gain was calculated.

Highest weaning weights

Results showed both high-BW and high-gain pigs had the highest weaning weights — 6.5 kg (14.33 pounds) and 5.7 kg (12.57 pounds), respectively. High-BW, low-gain pigs were 5.5 kg (12.12 pounds) at weaning, and low-BW, low-gain pigs were 4.5 kg (9.92 pounds). Lower piglet mortality also correlated with higher BW and higher gain.

Next, a follow-up study examined how gain at birth affects grow-finish performance.

Researchers used 448 pigs from the first study and grouped them into pens by BW and gain. Pig performance was measured from age 74 days until pen weight averaged 265 pounds.

Overall, high-BW, high-gain pigs performed best, and low-BW, low-gain pigs the poorest. But researchers noted a drop in performance by high-BW, low-gain pigs compared to the other high-BW pigs. For example, days to market for the top group was 147 compared to 150 days for high-BW, low-gain pigs. The low-BW, high-gain pigs took 153 days to market, and low-BW, low-gain pigs took 158 days.

These results suggest not just BW but also how a piglet gets started and how much colostrum it consumes affect survival and future performance. A small investment made early in a pig’s life may potentially pay out later.




1 Wiegert J. Effects of Birth Weight and Colostrum Intake on Piglet Survival and Quality, Allen D. Leman Swine Conference, 2017.



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