Pre- and Post-Weaning Management for Maximizing Pig Health and Performance

Posted: May 18, 2023 | Written By: Dr. Mark Whitney, Form-A-Feed

Weaning is the most stressful phase in most pig’s lives:  the challenges faced are both numerous and diverse.  Successfully managing and minimizing the number and severity of stressors during this susceptible time period for the young pig can pay great dividends immediately and later on regarding animal health and performance.  Challenges faced include environmental, social, dietary, and health-related in nature.

Environmental changes involve a completely new environment, including different pen layouts, unfamiliar feeders and waterers, changes in floor surfaces, and thermal environment challenges.  Social changes include the stress of movement and transport.  Differences in group sizes and commingling of pigs from different litters results in re-establishment of pecking order, further exacerbating stress on the newly-weaned pigs.

Pigs need to quickly transition from sow’s milk to a solid feed post-weaning, and along with unfamiliar feeders and waterers, this can often lead to otherwise normal pigs refusing to eat.  This short-term anorexia the first day(s) after weaning and placement increases the risk of a number of health detriments.  Gut function is often impaired, as blunting of the villi occurs, while reduced digestion brought on by less acidic conditions results in poorer enzymatic efficiency.  Ultimately, less nutrients aren’t only ingested (via feed), but those nutrients that are consumed are not efficiently absorbed.  Maternal antibody protection is waning, and along with a reduction of beneficial bacteria in the gut and exposure via the new environment, an increase of bacterial and/or viral pathogens in the gut often occurs.  Some of the more common enteric diseases we encounter today involve E. coli or Rotavirus pathogens.

How does one improve the robustness of the piglets, so they are better capable of dealing with all the stressors of weaning?  Promoting good gut health pre-weaning via creep feeding can be very helpful.  Not only does this introduce the pig to dry feed (new form and flavor), but a proper creep diet can also help develop gut function, establish a beneficial gut microbiota and support innate immunity.  Prior to weaning, prep the nursery by properly cleaning, disinfecting, and drying accommodations, adjust feeders and waterers, set appropriate temperature, and ensure ventilation is sufficient and even (avoid stale air pockets and drafts).  For transport, properly clean and disinfect the trailer, and handle all pigs with extra care.

Providing a highly palatable and digestible diet immediately post-weaning is key.  Complex pre-starter and starter mini-pellets are often used, and work very well for starting healthy, robust pigs.  For more challenged pigs, those that have fallen behind, are smaller, and/or disease challenged (esp PRRS and PED pigs), additional care and nutritional supplementation are needed.  These pigs are often immune-compromised, have substantial damage to their gastro-intestinal system, are not particularly interested in eating, and often suffer from scouring/diarrhea and dehydration.

Rebound is a new product from Form-A-Feed designed specifically for the challenged young pig.  The highly palatable and digestible powdered product provides gut-enhancing technologies, enriches beneficial gut microflora, improves cellular integrity of the intestine, and aids immune system function.  Electrolytes improve hydration, while other components aid in reducing stool looseness, ultimately resulting in supporting pig health and growth performance.  Rebound can be fed alone or used to supplement the starter diet, and its flexibility allow it to be fed on a mat, in feeders, or top-dressed.  The meal form can also be mixed with water to provide as a gruel.

Producers have had great success using Rebound in the farrowing room prior to weaning as a creep option that also aids in managing scouring while allowing fall-behind pigs to gain supplemental nutrition and growth.  In nursery situations, Rebound is particularly helpful in getting pigs in “hospital” pens consuming feed quickly, restoring gut function and allowing those pigs to recover sooner and get on the road to becoming a full-value pig.  Top-dressing Rebound with starter feed transitions pigs to their nursery feeding program sooner.

Ask your local Form-A-Feed representative or dealer about Rebound.  When combined with proper management and pig care, it can be incorporated into your swine system to increase number of viable robust pigs being produced, positively impacting your bottom line.

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