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 smaller piglets in particular have trouble eating creep feed and starting to grow. This makes giving all piglets an optimal and healthy start in 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?
A challenging task
Thanks to the on-going developments in swine genetics, the number of live-born piglets per litter is increasing annually. This increase in live-born piglets per litter is annually more than 0.15 piglets, resulting in, on average, +0.3 piglet 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 gram per every extra piglet in a litter (Jourquin et al., 2016). In large litters in particular, there is a high percentage of piglets weighing only 1.0 kg or less at birth. Furthermore, several trials have shown that when the litter size becomes bigger, the number of piglets smaller than 1.0 kg increases. Research even showed that 23% of all piglets weighed less than 1.0 kg when the 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 show a lower growth rate due to lesser milk uptake, making them highly susceptible to diarrhea and pre-weaning mortality. The pre-weaning survival rate of these smaller piglets has been shown to be 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, the survival of a piglet. Colostrum availability, quality and milk production of the sow play an important role in this. However, 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 a 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. However, the birth weight of new born piglets does have an effect on the consumption of creep feed. Compared to heavier piglets, research has shown that the 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.
How can dairy products help young piglets?
To make sure all piglets, and especially the smallest and more weaker piglets, get all the nutrients they need, the right nutrition becomes more and more important. With the increasing challenges for profitable piglet rearing, the 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 support the feed intake, the development of a healthy gut, and the immune system thus leading to improved performance, lower mortality and profitable piglet rearing.
Why use milk replacers?
Supplemental or substituted feeding of a milk replacer supports the feed intake and the development of a healthy gut and a piglet’s immune system. The increase in milk intake next to the sow’s milk will improved piglet performance, resulting in a higher weaning weight which results in less problems pre- and post-weaning. Here the smaller piglets in particular will benefit from the additional milk which is provided.
For the best support of young, and especially smaller piglets, after birth and in preparation for weaning, the sow milk replacer Porcolac gives them everything they need. Porcolac is a premium milk replacer, packed with the right dairy nutrients and supplemented with essentials vitamins, minerals and our Imagro health concept. It gives piglets an optimal start in life and the best performance after weaning, especially in the future where litter size is expected to continue going up.