Animal Nutrition Views
Ioannis Mavromichalis, Ph.D., gives his views on poultry, pig and dairy nutrition based on his experience as a nutrition consultant with clients around the world.
It is time to re-evaluate our feed intake target for the first week post-weaning for modern piglets raised in above-average facilities.
Let us start with a piglet weaned at 19 to 23 days of age, or in other words, the typical 3-week-old weaned piglet. Just before weaning, this piglet consumed about 1 kilogram of sow’s milk per day — assuming the sow could produce at the top of her abilities. This milk contained 25 percent solids, giving an average daily growth of 250 grams (roughly 1:1).
Without exposure to pre-weaning creep feed, and the typical average-cost post-weaning diet, this piglet now is expected to consume no more than 50 grams in the first 2 to 3 days, and on average, 150 grams of feed during the first week after weaning. Again, assuming (incorrectly, but it is a commercial norm) an 1:1 feed conversion rate, we cannot expect a daily growth of more than 150 grams during this crucial week.
Now, we all know that the higher the feed intake during the first week post-weaning, the better the overall growing-finishing performance. A difference of 50 to 100 grams per day in the first week post-weaning can shave off even a whole week from reaching market age! But, how can we improve post-weaning feed intake?
First, we must invest in high-quality creep feeds and apply the necessary management. Second, the same should be followed during the first week post-weaning using the same or even better feed, and the necessary feed management techniques.
Even though piglets can consume up to 300 grams feed per day during the first week post-weaning, their genetic potential is not exhausted here. Today, a good quality diet used properly can support up to 200 to 250 grams daily feed intake. But our target should not be just that. It is possible to reach and even exceed 300 grams, but for now I believe this latter number is good enough. Whether such target/performance pays off depends on the return on investment ratio, something that has to do with baseline performance, prices and costs, but this is material for another discussion.