Have you ever heard the phrase, “What’s old is new again”?
This phrase is a symbol of what we’re observing in the swine industry today. Over the past 20 years, the pendulum in swine production practices has swung from many extremes. Weaning age is one of these practices.
Twenty years ago, most producers weaned pigs at 21-to-28 days of age. Then, in the 1990s, the concept of segregated early weaning became common practice and the industry moved weaning age down to 14-to-18 days of age; this reduced exposure of piglets to disease. However, when the weaning age was decreased, post-weaning performance declined due to pigs’ underdeveloped immune system.
Today, the pendulum is shifting back to 21-to-28 days of age for most weaned pigs. At the same time, the average litter size has increased from 10.2 (in the late 1990s) to 11.5 (in 2009), with an increasing number of piglets weighing less than 2.2 pounds at birth (about 19 percent). Additionally, most genetic companies have assured us that their genetic selection techniques will be moving the number of live born pigs per litter to over 13 within the next five years.
Should I be creep feeding in today’s environment?
Now that weaning age is rising, it is time to utilize creep feeding to assist these older pigs and larger litters.
Providing a creep feed, like UltraCare® Creep Feed
prior to weaning: creates eaters, starts transitioning the gut from milk to dry feed, allows a gradual exposure to soybean meal and increases the secretion of proteolytic enzymes needed to digest plant proteins reducing post-wean lag.
Sulabo and coworkers (2009)1
showed that feeding piglets a complex creep diet three days prior to weaning resulted in 68 percent of the pigs becoming eaters pre-weaning, versus only 28 percent of the pigs when fed a simple creep diet (sow’s diet).
Pigs that became eaters during pre-weaning then gained 6.2 percent better (P < 0.01) and had greater average daily feed intake (P < 0.002) post-weaning than non-eaters. Also, eaters had improved post-weaning feed intake, average daily gain, body weight uniformity and reduced post-wean lag. Therefore, a more complex, tailored creep feed that mimics sow’s colostrum/milk is needed for young pigs.
How should I use a creep feed?
Begin feeding 3-to-5 days before weaning. Offer a total of 1.5-2.5 pounds of creep feed per litter during that time to create eaters and improve post-weaning performance.
For example, if a farm weans 100 litters per week and plans on creep feeding for five days prior to weaning, that farm would need 150-250 pounds per week of creep feed.
Feeding on mats or in pans twice daily is preferred over feeding once daily, to reduce waste and provide more access to piglets. Find a small scoop or a can to accurately measure 1.5 pounds of feed and ensure accuracy in creep feeding.
You’ve started your piglets off right, now keep that success going. Read more about creating an impactful young pig feeding program.
1R. C. Sulabo, M.D. Tokach, J.R. Bergstrom, J. M. DeRouchey, R. D. Goodband, S. S. Dritz, and J. L. Nelssen. 2009. Effects of Creep Diet Complexity on Individual Consumption Characteristics and Growth Performance of Neonatal and Weanling Pigs. Kansas State University. Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, Swine Day 2009 Report.