Swine

Piglet Feeding Guide: Three Tips to Boost Weaned Pig Feed Intake

Young Animal : Management

Stacie Crowder,

Lead Swine Nutritionist, Swine Technical Innovations

A 21-day-old pig’s stomach is approximately 2 ounces, or about the size of a large chicken egg. But, only about half (1 ounce) is available for pig feed intake at any given time. The remaining ounce is reserved for water intake and air.
 A weaned pig’s stomach is about the size of a large chicken egg. One ounce of that is available for feed and the remaining is reserved for air and water.
Imagine using half an eggshell as a feed scoop. That’s how much an early nursery pig can eat at once. Therefore, weaned pigs need to eat their fill multiple times per day to consume enough nutrients for optimal growth.
 
So, how do you get nursery pigs to go back to the feeder to get the nutrition they need? Here are three tips:    

The nursery pig digestive system needs water 

Pig feed intake is highly correlated to water intake. It can take as long as 36 hours for 85 percent of newly-weaned pigs to find water.
 
Products such as Purina UltraCare® gel and UltraCare® electrolyte can help keep weaned pigs hydrated and performing well in the first week post-weaning and times of stress. Gel and electrolytes provide sodium, chloride, magnesium, vitamins and pH acidifiers. These nutrients help balance the pig digestive system and keep pigs drinking and eating.

Mat train to create consistent eaters

Mat training is ideal for nursery pigs because they naturally eat in groups. Placing feed on mats initiates pen activity, which can lead to increased pig feed intake.
 
Think about what we do during a commercial break. We get up, use the restroom and go to the kitchen for a snack. Then we return to our comfort zone and repeat the cycle. Mat training encourages the same behavior in weaned pigs.
 
Mat training also helps you see the poor eaters – the ones that don’t get up when you put feed down. You can respond and prevent potential challenges as the pigs grow and develop.
 
Mat feed pigs 4-6 times per day during the first 3-7 days post-weaning for best results. Provide 0.4 square feet of mat per pig, and sprinkle 1 pound of feed or feed supplement per 40 pigs at each feeding.

Use pigs’ sense of taste and smell

Before weaning, the smell of the sow drove the young pig to seek food. Components of the sow’s milk triggered the urge to continue eating. This internal drive, triggered by the senses, is called imprinting, and you can use it to encourage repeat feeding in the nursery. The right ingredients combined with intake-enhancing technology can drive feeding behavior in newly-weaned pigs, even though they are unfamiliar with the feed.
 
The concept works the same for people. How often have you thought, ‘I’m only going to have one or two bites of chocolate cake,’ only to find you have eaten a whole piece? That first bite made you feel so good you kept eating without thinking about it. A few hours later, you might have gone back to eat another piece.
 
That’s the response you need from your nursery pig diets to drive repeat feeding behavior.
 
Want to talk to an expert about repeat pig feed intake? Connect with a sales specialist in your area.