The Importance of Creep Feeding for Big Litters and Small Pigs

Young Animal : Health Stresses

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Purina Animal Nutrition

Creep feeding piglets is important for the future development of pigs of all sizes. However, you are not alone if you’re looking for tools to care for larger pig litters.

Across the U.S. pork industry, the average number of piglets in a litter increased 14 percent between 2007 and 2016. The average number of pigs per litter in the U.S. in 2016 was just over 10 pigs, and many farms are reporting well over 30 pigs per sow per year. This is great news in many cases.

However, within those larger litters, roughly 20 percent of the pigs weighed less than 2 pounds.1

Litter size and birth weight both influence piglet survival; small pigs and pigs from large litters are at greater risk for mortality. Therefore, it’s crucial to use feeding practices and nutrition to help those at-risk pigs become early eaters. Creep feeding is one tool that can help average-sized pigs, as well as small pigs, from today’s larger pig litters.

Big pigs need help, too

Creep feeding doesn’t just benefit small pigs. Pigs weighing from 14 to 16 pounds at weaning could have nutrient requirements that can’t be met by sow’s milk alone. And, despite their larger size, they don’t have more advanced digestive systems. A 14-pound pig at 21 days has the same digestive system as a 12-pound pig at 21 days. In fact, the larger pigs can be at risk for falling out in early nursery because they were likely getting most of the sow’s milk in the farrowing crate. They might not eat dry feed as aggressively as their smaller, hungrier littermates. Providing creep feed to small and large pigs before weaning can help prepare their digestive systems for the transition to starter feed.

Importance of creep feeding

Research at the Purina Animal Nutrition Center in Gray Summit, Missouri has shown creep-fed pigs ate more aggressively and experienced early and sustained gains in the nursery compared to pigs that weren’t creep-fed.
  • In a Purina Animal Nutrition Center creep feed study, pigs creep fed for 3-5 days pre-weaning became eaters. Data showed creep-fed pigs had 13 percent higher average daily feed intake during the first week after weaning than those not offered creep feed.1
  • In a controlled study, pig weight gain was 6.2 percent higher for pigs that became eaters during the pre-wean period, and eaters had greater average daily feed intake post-weaning than non-eaters. The study also showed early intake improved litter uniformity and reduced the number of fallouts.2
  • Our research showed the benefits of creep feeding were maintained throughout the nursery. Pigs offered creep feed experienced 28 percent higher average daily gains than those not fed creep. Additional trials showed the creep-fed pigs were 1.1 pounds heavier at 20 days post-weaning and 1.8 pounds heavier at 36 days than their counterparts that were not fed creep.3
Looking for more tools to support feed intake and nutrition? Read more about our UltraCare® Gel.

1 Purina Animal Nutrition trial: PS1041.
R. 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.
3 Summation of Purina Animal Nutrition trials PS1041, PS1035, WF006, WF007, FT142N-15 and PMI Nursery-Grower Transition Pak