Swine

Feed Gel-Based Feeds to Nursery Pigs

Young Animal : Nutrition

Brenda de Rodas, Ph.D.

R&D Director, Research & Product Development

Weaning presents many challenges to the young pig.

These challenges include an abrupt change from a liquid to a solid diet that contains ingredients that may not be easily digestible to the young pig. In addition, the young pig is presented with a new social structure. Combined, these effects disrupt nutrient intake that is necessary to maintain gut integrity and function. The reduced feed intake after weaning may contribute to intestinal inflammation, which may affect the structure of the villus and crypt.

Research has shown that the weanling pig does not consume enough nutrients to meet the maintenance requirements until the 5th day after weaning at 21-days of age. In addition, it has been reported that only 50 percent of piglets drink water during the first 24-hours post-weaning. These disruptions in water and feed intake affect growth performance and are further exacerbated by an immature immune system, which creates susceptibility to digestive upsets and diarrhea.

In general, complex diets containing plasma protein and milk products have been used with some success to minimize the post-weaning lag. However, it is not un-common for the young and lightweight weaned-pig to experience prolonged growth retardation. The physical form of the diet during the immediate post-weaning period has a large impact on voluntary feed intake, and it would appear that a gel-based feed would be at least a partial solution to the post-weaning growth depression.

Purina gel-based feed is a unique patented technology that provides the young pig with both a feed component and a water component. It contains high quality ingredients, and it is highly palatable and shelf stable at room temperature. This paper summarizes the results of three trials conducted to evaluate the effect of feeding a gel-based feed during the first seven days after weaning on performance of nursery pigs.

Materials and methods
Three experiments involving 286 weanling pigs were conducted to evaluate the efficacy of a gel-based feed in improving performance of nursery pigs. In all experiments, two dietary treatments were evaluated during day 0-to-7 post-weaning and consisted of a control pelleted diet, and the control pelleted diet plus gel.

Pigs on both treatments had ad libitum access to common pelleted diets in metal feeders attached to the pen gates. Gel was provided in creep feeders added to each pen in Treatment 2. From days 0-to-2 post-weaning only gel was offered in creep feeders. From day 3-to-7, a mixture of gel and dry pelleted feed was provided in the creep feeders. On day 3 and 4, 0.1 and 0.5 pounds of dry pelleted feed per pound of gel, respectively was added. On days 5, 6 and 7, 1 pound of dry pelleted feed per pound of gel was added. Water was available through a nipple waterer.

In Experiment 1, 110 weanling pigs (10.5 pounds) were blocked based on initial body weight and penned in groups of five (N = 11). Three diet sequences were provided during the post-weaning period. Phase 1 diets (1.6 percent lysine) were fed from days 0-to-7, Phase 2 (1.5 percent lysine) from days 7-to-21, and Phase 3 (1.35 percent lysine) from days 21-to-35 post-weaning.

In Experiment 2, 120 weanling pigs averaging 8.2 pounds and 13 days of age were blocked based on initial body weight and penned in groups of five (N = 12). Phase 1 diets (1.7 percent lysine) were fed from days 0-to-3, Phase 2 (1.6 percent lysine) from days 3-to-14, Phase 3 (1.5 percent lysine) from days 14-to-28, and Phase 4 (1.35 percent lysine) from days 28 to 42 post-weaning.

In Experiment 3, 56 weanling pigs averaging 10.2 pounds and 17 days of age were blocked based on initial body weight and penned in groups of four (N = 7). Four diet sequences were provided during the post-weaning period. Phase 1 diets (1.7 percent lysine) were fed from days 0-to-7, Phase 2 (1.6 percent lysine) from days 7-to-14, Phase 3 (1.5 percent lysine) from days 14-to-28, and Phase 4 (1.35 percent lysine) from days 28-to-40 post-weaning. 

Results and discussions
   Table showing effect of gel supplementation on performance of nursery pigs

In Experiment 1, gel supplementation increased ADG during days 0-to-7 post-weaning in pigs weighing less than 10 pounds at weaning, but had no effect in pigs weighing 126 more than 10 pounds at weaning (Figure 1; initial weight treatment interaction effect, P< 0.05). Similarly, pigs receiving the gel had greater (P < 0.05) ADFI than pigs not receiving the gel during days 0 to 7 post-weaning (data not shown). During the overall 35-day nursery period, ADG was improved (P = 0.10) in pigs fed the gel and weighing less than 10 pounds at weaning when compared to those not receiving the gel (Table 1). By the end of the 35-day experimental period, pigs weighing less than 10 pounds at weaning and supplemented with the gel were 3.8 pounds heavier (P < 0.05) than pigs weighing less than 10 pounds at weaning and receiving no gel.

Table showing effect of gel supplementation on performance in nursery pigs

In Experiment 2, pigs fed the gel grew faster (P < 0.05) and consumed more feed (P < 0.05) during days 0-to-7 post-weaning than pigs fed the control diet without the gel (Table 2). During days to 7-to-14 and during the overall 42-day experiment, no significant (P> 0.1) differences were observed in ADG, ADFI or feed: gain ratio, although a trend toward improved gains was observed. Improvement in gain in pigs supplemented with gel resulted in 0.94, 1.2, and 1.6 pounds improvement in body weight at day 7 (P < 0.02), day 14 (P < 0.03), and day 42 (P = 0.24) post-weaning, respectively when compared to those not receiving the gel. 



In Experiment 3, pigs supplemented with gel had greater (P < 0.05) ADG than pigs not receiving the gel during days 0-to-7 post-weaning (Figure 2). Gel intake was 0.41 pounds per pig per day. Similarly, pigs fed the gel tended to have improved ADG (P= 0.13) and ADFI (P = 0.16) during the overall experimental period (Table 3). Improvement in gain in pigs fed the gel resulted in a 0.93 and 2.6 pounds increase in body weight at the end of Phase 1 (P < 0.05) and at the end of the nursery period (P = 0.13), respectively when compared to pigs fed the control diet without the gel. 

Summary
Table showing effect of gel supplementation on performance of nursery pigs


Collectively, results from these experiments indicate that gel supplementation during the first 7 days after weaning consistently improves performance of nursery pigs. The greatest response was observed with the youngest and lightest pigs. Pigs fed the gel were 0.8-to-0.94 pounds and 1.6-to-3.8 pounds heavier than pigs receiving no gel at day 7 post-weaning and at the end of the nursery period, respectively. This data suggests that gel supplementation can ease the weaning transition to dry feed.
 
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