For raising pigs successfully one might want to take a look at the world of dairy cows. Milk ingredients can help piglets as well as their mothers better overcome the often challenging moments of farrowing and weaning. Proof comes from around the world.
By 2050 the world’s population is expected to have grown to between 9 and 10 billion people. Feeding this growing population will be an enormous challenge and has implications for people, animals and the environment.
For raising pigs tackling this challenge starts with dairy, and therefore FrieslandCampina Nutrifeed developed the Piglet & Sow Performance Programme. The programme is a tested and proven concept of three complementary dairy products that fit the specific needs of the sow and her piglets in different stages of their lives; two spray-dried, fat-filled dairy concentrates (Lactolat for sows, and Serolat fat-filled, for piglets around weaning) and a premium milk for young piglets (Porcolac Extra).
The programme brings extra support to sows and directly and indirectly improves piglets’ condition. As a result, sows lose less backfat, the fat content of sow milk increases significantly, mortality decreases or is prevented and growth rates and feed conversion ratios are improved. All in all, this will help to farm more efficiently to feed the growing world population with regard to the scarce raw materials, and, finally, to become more appealing to younger people as a pig farming sector.
Giving piglets a head start
To give piglets a head start, the starting point is the sow’s general condition. When a sow is in a good condition, farrowing will be smoother and this will also impact the level and quality of the sow milk produced. Eventually, this will affect the number of piglets born alive as well as the mortality rate among piglets in the first days after birth.
Especially this last effect is important, because the production of more and higher energetic sow milk creates more vital and stronger piglets. This is becoming increasingly important, due to continuously increasing litter sizes. Providing sows with an easily digestible energy source will improve the condition, farrowing and the level and quality of their milk.
Another challenge is to feed all piglets with the right level of nutrients. Additional feed intake, providing a milk to young piglets during the lactation period, is a desirable way to increase nutrient intake of piglets. This will improve the piglets’ general condition and result in less mortality and increased growth rates. Furthermore, the intake of additional feed during lactation will facilitate the change from liquid milk to solid feed after weaning. Piglets will have higher energy reserves to overcome weaning problems and reach a higher post-weaning feed intake.
Especially right after weaning, piglets need highly digestible dietary components. Since piglets’ digestive tracts are suited to digest dairy nutrients like lactose and milk proteins, it is advisable to supplement them with creep, weaning and starter diets containing high quality, easily digestible, dairy components.
Dairy proteins can also be easily spray-dried using vegetable oils, resulting in small fat particles which can easily be digested by piglets, see Figure 1. Especially the piglets’ capacity of digesting fat is compromised when enduring weaning stress, so it would make sense to replace part of liquid vegetable oils by spray-dried, fat-filled dairy components. Eventually, this will result in more efficient piglet growth and a reduction of feeding costs.
Different trials have been performed to test the effect of the Piglet and Sow Performance Programme. Studies were performed at scientific institutes in Thailand and the Netherlands. In addition, trials were done on commercial farms in Vietnam and South Africa to investigate whether the programme improved sow condition and piglet performance as a whole. The approach on both studies was comparable. The trial in South Africa included 50 sows and their piglets; the trial in Vietnam included 40 sows and their piglets.
The study comprised of two treatments, the control group received commercial regional lactation (sow), weaning and starter (piglets) diet. The trial group received the same commercial diets, but with inclusion of the three complementary dairy products of the programme.
Trial in Thailand
A first trial was performed to test the effect of the dairy concentrate for sows (Lactolat) on the general condition of sows and on the composition of sow milk. This trial was executed by the Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, in cooperation with FrieslandCampina Nutrifeed. In total 90 sows entered the trial at five days before the expected farrowing date. As a result, Figure 2 shows the general condition of the sow in terms of backfat loss. Sows receiving the dairy concentrate lost less backfat during lactation.
Furthermore, the dairy concentrate had a positive effect on milk composition; fat levels were significantly increased and the metabolic energy level increased as well, see Figure a.
Trial in South Africa and Vietnam
Subsequently, the results of the trials performed with the total programme showed positive effects as well. Trial piglets had on average 100 g lower birth weights, but already after two weeks trial piglets were 100 g heavier compared to the control piglets. This is likely the result of feeding the dairy concentrate to the sows and feeding the premium milk (Porcolac Extra) to young piglets ad lib next to dry pre-starter. At weaning, the growth advantage increased to 400 g. At the end of the trial, day 70, the piglets fed with all three complementary products of the programme reached a bodyweight that was 1.4 kg higher compared to the control group, see Figure 3.
Trial in the Netherlands
The trial at Schothorst Feed Research, the Netherlands, was performed to look at the effect of the premium milk given to piglets five days pre-weaning. This resulted in significantly increased growth rates and higher feed intake pre-and post-weaning. The institute suggested that “a more gradual transition of the piglets from liquid (milk) to solid feed could have reduced intestinal damages and improved intestinal integrity. Additionally, effects on immunity or microflora may contribute to the improved performance of these piglets after weaning.”