The challenge of moving a pig from a diet of sow milk to solid food has been looked at from many perspectives. Over time, it becomes apparent that how successful you are in making the change happen has a lot to do with how much attention you pay to the details. It is understood that exposing piglets to creep feed early, at 7 10 days, several times a day, is a good start.
The detail emerging is that the feed should either be fed in a feeder, or on a mat that is clean and free of all odours. If feed in a stainless steel dish smells like dried disinfectant, it will not be as readily eaten as feed in a stainless dish that has been rinsed in water, allowed to dry and has no smell. Once feed is in the dish, it is best changed three times a day and replaced with fresh feed. Leaving it until it is gone or adding more is not acceptable. Have you ever eaten three meals off the same plate for a day without washing it?
The feed itself should be highly palatable. It can be improved by sprinkling dry powdered milk on the feed to improve its smell. Part of palatability means the feed must be soft enough to chew by the animal eating it. This means the feed particles must be small enough to be picked up by the tongue and soft enough to be chewed without causing discomfort to the animals mouth.
The feeder should be of a design that allows easy access by the pig, stays relatively clean and can be locked to a mounting bracket inside the creep area. Any feeders contaminated with urine or feces should be replaced at the next feeding with a clean feeder. The natural inclination of a pig is to root or look for feed from a flat floor surface. Most feeders are designed to take advantage of this behaviour.
The creep feed that is supplied when the litters are still on the sow should be continued into the weaning process for the length of time recommended by the feed supplier.
While all this is nothing new to most producers, the attention paid to the details of doing it well, consistently and correctly do make a significant difference in pig performance.
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