Animal Nutrition Views
Dr. Ioannis Mavromichalis is an animal nutritionist holding graduate degrees from Kansas State University (MSc) and University of Illinois (PhD). He is the Principal of Ariston Nutrition Consulting International. He may be contacted at [email protected]. See all author stories and blogs.
Widely known as gruel-feeding, a warm porridge of a suitably designed feed can help underprivileged piglets survive and thrive.
I had the good fortune to experience firsthand the positive response of piglets (of any age) to a moist or semi-moist feed offered right after weaning. I recall visiting farms in the Midwest and demonstrating the concept to farmers. I would take some meal or pellets from the feeder (when the farmer would complain that the pigs would not eat) and hold them in my hand under a nipple waterer until the mash was moist enough. Then I would squeeze it and form what I called a “wet rat” that I would drop on the floor mat. It never failed me. Every time, the piglets would just go and gobble down the moistened feed. Then, I would ask for a plastic round lock-down feeder, and there I would again use normal feed and water to prepare a gruel. Pigs loved it! Every farm that adopted this feeding technique never complained (at least to me!) again about piglets not eating after weaning.
Since then, I have designed a very specific gruel-feeding formula (aptly named Piglet Porridge) that utilizes the best materials and concepts to attract piglets to feed without the need to use the normal feed. It is an expensive formula, but it needs to be fed for less time and at a smaller amount. The problem with normal feed used as a gruel is that you have to keep feeding it for too long, and this requires piglets to undergo a second “weaning” stress. With a modern product, this problem is avoided. Who said we ever stop learning?
At any rate, gruel feeding done with special products or just normal feed is a method that remains undervalued, or rather little-known to most farms. Give it a try — at least with those 2 to 3 percent of pigs that fail to thrive right after weaning. You will be surprised!