There are many benefits to early weaning animals, but there can also be problems. The primary problems associated with weaning include slowed or minimized growth. Piglets can become confused by deciding whether they feel hunger or thirst after being removed from the mother’s milk, leading to limits on food consumption and ultimately restricted growth. To prevent these problems, it is important to have a quality milk replacer for piglets, providing these fast-growing animals with the correct nutrition they need.
Clean and Sanitary Food and Water Sources
It’s not just what piglets eat that matters, but also how they get this food and water. Piglets need to be fed in a warm, draft-free environment that has plentiful water and incorporates diseases control programs. Disease control does not simply cover medication such as antibiotics, but also the health of the feeding and living area. Make sure there is proper ventilation and sanitation.
Piglets dehydrate easily so make sure there is plentiful water. A professionally designed feeder can help create this disease-free environment too, making sure feed and feces stay separate in your holding area. Feeder mats can help promote the social interaction needed to ensure proper growth during the first few days but should be removed after a short period of time for sanitation. Feed should also be limited for this introductory period of time, to ensure piglets don’t sort through feed for “better” pieces and avoid vital nutrition until they are used to this non-milk option for nutrition.
Providing the Correct Food for Growth Rate
Piglets can experience food confusion after weaning. As everything is new, this diet of feed plus water instead of “all milk” can be more gently introduced with social cues and limited display amounts of food, to begin with, as above. That doesn’t mean that the total amount of food should be low, however, quite the opposite. Farmers have figured out that the optimal amount of food for a piglet should be:
“Feed intake (g/day) = 120 × BW0.75 It is widely accepted that for every 0.1 kg extra feed consumed per day during the first-week post weaning, body weight increases about 1.5 kg at the end of the fourth-week post-weaning.”
For most that will work out to about 150-200 g/day during the. first week post-weaning. This food should offer a high level of nutrition with vitamins and minerals, amino acids, and lactose to provide piglets enough energy for growth. Common ingredients in feed for health growth include:
- Barley and oat groats
- Cereal byproducts from flour (but not immediately after weaning)
- Oils from soybeans, maize, or sunflowers
- *Note that oils are favored initially over animal fats which are favored later in life.
- Fish meal
- Blood or egg plasma
- Copper sulfate
- Zinc Oxide
Using these ingredients you can also choose from different grinds and pellet qualities. The key to raising healthy, disease-free piglets to become grown pigs for food or show is to constantly check and reevaluate your growth and feeding. You will likely have to change the program as the pigs grow older and larger as well as adapt to specific conditions in your environment such as weather.
Start your piglet weaning with a clean, quality set up that includes a professional grade feeder. Cautiously introduce young piglets to their new environment and adapt their nutrient-filled feed to meet their growth needs.