Every farmer knows how important a good start in life is for the growth and development of all piglets. Birthweight sows colostrum & milk and early feed intake are essential for the performance of the young piglets. In practice, we see, that with the increase in litter size, more piglets are born with lower birth weights.
The colostrum quality and milk production of the sow is not always enough to provide the required nutrients and energy. On top of that, we see that especially smaller piglets have trouble eating creep feed and starting to grow. This makes, giving all piglets an optimal and healthy start to life and minimizing pre-weaning mortality, a challenging task.
So, what can you do to make sure all piglets, and especially the smallest piglets, get all the nutrition they need?
With the ongoing developments in swine genetics, the number of live-born piglets per litter increases annually. This increase in live-born piglets per litter is annually more than 0.15 piglets, resulting in on average +0,3 piglets per sow per year. At the same time, the increase in the number of live-born piglets also results in more piglets born with lower birth weights. On average, piglet birth weight decreases by 25 to 35 grams per every extra piglet in a litter (Jourquin et al., 2016).
Especially, in large litters, there is a high percentage of piglets weighing only 1.0kg or less at birth. Several trials showed that when litter size becomes bigger the number of piglets smaller than 1.0kg increases. Research even showed that 23% of all piglets weighed less than 1.0kg when litter size was above 15 piglets (Quiniou et al., 2002; Quesnel et al., 2008; Beaulieu et al., 2010).
On top of that competition at the udder increases with larger litters, especially impacting the smaller and already weaker piglets. In general, these smaller piglets are showing a lower growth rate due to lesser milk uptake making them highly susceptible to diarrhoea and pre-weaning mortality. The pre-weaning survival rate of these smaller piglets is significantly lower compared to heavier piglets (58% vs 92%; Jourquin et al., 2016)
Sufficient colostrum and sow milk intake are crucial in this to support the growth, health, development and in this way survival of a piglet. Colostrum availability, quality and milk production of the sow play an important role in this. Though, the availability of colostrum and sows milk does not appear to increase at the same rate as the increase in litter size. As a result, even high milk-producing sows may have the challenge to produce enough milk to provide the required nutrients and energy to all piglets.
To prepare the piglets for the moment of weaning and switching to a 100% solid feed diet, providing creep feed pre-weaning has proven to be a beneficial strategy. The birth weight of newborn piglets does however affect the consumption of creep feed. Compared to heavier piglets, research has shown that consumption of creep feed is challenging and much lower for smaller and already weaker piglets (Huting et al., 2017). In this way, the increasing group of smaller piglets in a litter are not able to compensate for the lack of milk from the sow.
To make sure all piglets, and especially the smallest and weaker piglets get all the nutrients they need, the right nutrition becomes more and more important. With the increasing challenges for profitable piglet rearing, supplementation of additional dairy milk products becomes essential.
Directly from birth, piglets are genetically programmed to optimally digest all nutrients that are present in milk. Dairy ingredients are just like sow milk packed with the right nutrients, which are very palatable and easy to digest. Providing essential building blocks and energy, dairy ingredients can supports feed intake, and the development of a healthy gut and immune system. Leading to improved performance, lower mortality and profitable piglet rearing.
Supplemental or substituted feeding of a milk replacer supports feed intake and the development of a healthy gut and immune system of piglets. The increase in milk intake next to sows milk will improve piglet performance, resulting in a higher weaning weight which results in fewer problems pre-and post-weaning. Especially the smaller piglets will benefit from the additionally provided milk.
For the best support of young, and especially smaller piglets after birth and in preparation for weaning the sow milk replacer Porcolac is giving everything they need. Porcolac is a premium milk replacer, packed with the right nutrients from dairy supplemented with essential vitamins, minerals and our Imagro health concept. Giving piglets an optimal start of life and the best performance after weaning especially in the future when litter size is expected to constantly go up.
Contact our Animal Nutrition team via firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and support.
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