Minimize Pig Post-Weaning Lag

Brenda de Rodas, Ph.D.

Director, Swine Technical Innovation

Young pig feed intake and growth during the first week after weaning should be of the utmost concern. 

Why? The greater the pigs average daily gain during the first week after weaning, the shorter time it takes to get to market.  Therefore, maximizing early feed intake leads to heavier, healthier pigs in the nursery resulting in enhanced success in the grow-out unit.1

Purina Animal Nutrition developed an award-winning gel feed, marketed as two separate products UltraCare® gel, for nursery pigs to entice them to eat day one after weaning. It is an innovative, flexible and convenient gel providing pigs essential nutrients and hydration for faster starts. Gel is typically fed for 2-4 days post-weaning at 0.2 - 1 lb/head/day on mats, feeders or bowls. 

Gel is a unique concept in swine nutrition.  Its moisture content and natural intake enhancers are designed to encourage intake, maintain hydration, and support intestinal health during times of stress such as weaning.

The following data is from a trial conducted at Purina Animal Nutrition Center, Gray Summit, MO, which show the advantage of feeding gel for the first few days in the nursery.  

One hundred weanling pigs (GPK 35 female and EB boar) averaging 11.1 pounds BW were used in a 42-day growth trial to evaluate the effect of feeding gel during the first week after weaning on performance of nursery pigs receiving the UltraCare® nursery feeding program. At weaning, pigs were sorted by weight, and divided into 4 weight groups (blocks) of 25 pigs per weight group. Pigs within each weight block were allotted into 5 equal subgroups (pens) of 5 pigs per pen (10 pens/treatment). Dietary treatments were randomly assigned to pens (subgroups) within each of the weight groups (blocks). Two dietary treatments were evaluated during Phase 1 (days 0-to-7 post-weaning) as described in the following table: 

Table 1. Treatments

All pigs had free access to feed. The pelleted feed was offered in the metal feeders on the pen gates. The gel was fed in snap-in creep feeders (added to each pen) to pigs on Treatment 2 post-weaning. From days 3-to-7, a combination of gel plus dry feed was offered in creep feeders to pigs in Treatment 2.  0.1, 0.5, 1 and 1 pounds of dry feed per pound of gel was added to the creep feeders on days 3, 4, 5 and 6, respectively.   

During the nursery period, pigs were housed in a conventional nursery facility in pens with a nipple drinker, four-hole feeder, and plastic flooring.  Pigs had free access to water.  For the first week of the trial, the nursery was maintained at 85°F and decreased 3°F per week thereafter. This trial was conducted during the months of June and July.

From days 0-to-4 and days 0-to-7 (Phase 1) post-weaning, pigs receiving the gel demonstrated optimized body weight when compared to pigs not receiving gel (Table 2). This trend continued all the way through 42 days, when they had been fed additional gel during their first few days in the nursery. 

Table 2. Summary of Result

Means in the same row not followed by a common letter differ (P < 0.05) using LSD procedure.

Feeding gel in the nursery for the first few days benefits growing pigs by minimizing post weaning nutrition lag.

1Tokach, M. D.; Goodband, R. D.; Nelssen, J. L.; Kats, L. J. 1992. Influence of weaning weight and growth during the first week post-weaning on subsequent pig performance.  Book Title: Kansas State University Swine Day 1992. Report of Progress 667 Conference Title: Kansas State University Swine Day 1992. Report of Progress 667. p.19-21 Publication Year: 1992, Editors: Goodband, B.; Tokach, M. Publisher: Kansas State University Kansas , USA