Background 661 views last update:6 Aug 2012

First steps to easy weaning

How do you make the transition from sow's milk to solid feed not just less stressful, but a pleasant experience? High quality ingredients and piglet-directed flavourings make a balance and attractive package.

Careful attention to piglets’ feed intake in the period immediately after weaning can yield significant increases in live weight gain but there is still room for improvement. While genetics, sow health, presence of disease and strength of the immune system all have an input, feed remains one of the principal influences.

Optimising the formulation in terms of promoting piglet development is a key consideration, but encouraging piglets to eat anything at all is the initial challenge. The inherent stresses of weaning (separation from the sow; mixing with piglets from other litters; new feeding regime) can be so severe as to result in mortality increases. Yet early weaning continues to be the preferred option because restricted sow milk levels mean weaned piglets grow more quickly than suckled piglets, provided the transition to feed is a positive experience.

Tickle the taste buds
While farmers and breeders will often judge a feed on their own reactions to its appearance, smell and even taste, this can be misleading. Piglets’ sensory reactors are quite different from our own. Pigs have a different number of taste buds as well as a different ratio of sweet, sour, bitter, salt and umami sensors. Studies have also shown that certain taste buds give an electrical signal to the human nervous system which do not react in the same way as the pig’s nervous system, and vice versa. Indeed, pigs have a greater number of taste buds than many other mammals and ±5,000 fungiform taste buds– the ones that detect sweetness. This compares with ±1,600 in humans. Adding sugar to starter feed therefore significantly improves early post-weaning feed intake.

High quality ingredients
In response to these findings and other extensive research into piglet feed preferences, Trouw Nutritional International developed Milkiwean. Designed to be attractive to piglets in terms of smell, colour and taste, it also interacts positively with piglets’ immune systems and intestinal flora. The result is a pleasant eating experience for piglets that leaves them satisfied and content, creating a positive eating cycle.

Ingredient selection is critical. Only the highest quality raw materials are used with freshness guaranteed. A high batch-to-batch consistency means farmers can eliminate feed as the likely cause of any sudden loss of appetite. All feeds bearing the Milkiwean brand name are manufactured on dedicated production lines, quality is maintained and every aspect of production is rigorously controlled and fully traceable from the raw material though to compounding, production and distribution. Trouw’s dedicated Milkiwean production plant is certified to ISO 9002 as well as to the voluntary industry standard GMP+ (Good Manufacturing Practices).”

A complete range
The range comprises products for both pellet and liquid feeding strategies and takes piglets from initial weaning through to 25kg body weight. In different markets, specific products may be offered in order to meet special local demands. Typical products include Milkiwean Profito, a creep feed that is readily soluble in cold or warm water and suitable for liquid feeding to piglets up to 28 days. It is specially formulated to avoid rapid degradation, a potential problem with some liquid feed systems. Creep feed for more traditional feeding systems is available as 2mm pellets under the name Milkiwean Presto. Three to four days after weaning, piglets can be transferred to weaning feed in mash or pellet form. Adding to this the starter feeds, including mash and pellets, offer a choice of feeds that provide piglets with optimum nutritional support during the weaning phase.

Bert van Gils

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