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Maximizing colostrum intake at birth improves finishing performance

The amount of colostrum a piglet consumes during its first 24 hours of life impacts its performance through finishing, according to Jeffery Wiegert, swine specialist, North Carolina State University Extension.

Wiegert’s research showed colostrum’s vital role in helping piglets survive and thrive throughout their life. Not only is colostrum a high-energy fluid, it also provides other nutritive properties and bioactive compounds that stimulate pig growth. Unfortunately, larger litters do not correlate with more colostrum, he added.

The research examined how birthweight and colostrum intake on day 1 affected feed intake, average daily gain and feed efficiency until marketing.

“Pigs with high birthweight and good colostrum intake will do well into maturity,” he told Pig Health Today. “But in pigs with high birthweight and reduced colostrum intake, we saw reduced growth performance later in life.

“On the other hand, if you have a low-birthweight pig but it gets off to a good start with enough colostrum, it will pick up a little on feed efficiency through maturity,” Wiegert added. “You can perhaps influence the performance of finishing simply by maximizing the first 24 hours of that pig’s life.”

How to increase colostrum intake

The simplest way to make sure all piglets in a litter receive adequate colostrum is to split-suckle. Wiegert suggested taking the first half of the litter off the sow and putting them into a heated creep area. This allows the second half of the litter to suckle without competition.

Otherwise, all litters should be closely watched for fall-behind pigs that aren’t suckling. While attended farrowing and close observations during the first 24 hours of life are work intensive, the effort can pay off at finishing with improved pig performance.

 


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