Presentations from the project: Understanding & overcoming barriers posed by small pigs

Part of: Pigs

A series of 8 presentations have been prepared by the Monogastric Research Group at AFBI Hillsborough. The presentations show some of the research outptuts produced within the DAERA funded and Pig Regen Ltd. Co-funded Evidence & Innovation project ‘Understanding and overcoming the barriers posed by small pigs’.

There are 5 presentations on the main topic of better understanding growth and performance dynamic of piglets born with low weight and the impact of different strategies (pre- and post-weaning) to improve their viability and performance. There are 2 presentations on trials studying a novel feeding system for nursery and finishing pigs combining water and diet at the feeder. Finally, a last presentation on sow nutrition as means to improve piglet early performance.

Videos of Presentations follow:

1. What is the significance of compromised pigs on commercial farms?

In this presentation we quantified the performance of piglets born with low weight (compared to average birth weight piglets) on a number of commercial farms in Northern Ireland.  Small pigs at birth weighed almost 10 kg less at slaughter age. Death of piglets born with low weight occurred significantly earlier in production. Furthermore, as starvation accounted for almost half of the pre-weaning mortalities amongst small piglets, improving lactation nutrition should be the primary focus of intervention strategies, which aim to minimise the negative impact of these animals on herd performance and profitability.

2. Growth response of low and average birthweight pigs to sow lactation feed intake

In this presentation we studied the benefits of increasing sow lactation feed intake have on their litter pre-weaning growth. This work demonstrated that sows are capable of enhanced intakes when offered a higher lactation feed allowance (above commercial like conditions). This allowed compromised piglets to express a weaning weight matching that of average birth weight pigs reared under commercial like conditions and record a significantly reduced pre-wean mortality. Overall this work showed that low birth weight piglets have the potential to improve their grow when provided with an increased milk allowance from the sow.

3. Tailored post-weaning feeding regime for low birthweight pigs

In this presentation we further assessed the impact of increasing sow lactation feed intake on piglets performance after weaning. Despite enhanced sow lactation feed intake increasing the weaning weight of piglets with low birth weight to that of average birth weight reared under commercial like conditions, these animals were unable to match the weight gain of average birth weight counterparts post-weaning. Despite having similar feed intake and feeding behaviour during the finishing period, low birth weight pigs still recorded a lighter weight than average birth weight counterparts at slaughter. A deeper dive on the biological drivers of feed efficiency in compromised pigs is required.

4. Evaluation of different foster strategies to deal with large litters

In this presentation we evaluated the impact of different foster strategies implemented to deal with large litters on piglet growth. Foster strategies involved fostering litters with sows that are an extra week into lactation and artificial rearing in a one-week batch production system. Our findings suggest that fostering litters with sows that are an extra week into lactation does not compromise piglet growth. However, fostering piglets in an artificial rearing system at 14 days of age impairs pre-weaning growth, but there is evidence of compensatory growth after weaning.

5. Improving the lifetime performance of small pigs at weaning through the use of nurse sows and starter diet allowance.

In this presentation we aimed to improve low weaning weight piglets’ whole life performance by either extending lactation (using a nurse sow) or improving starter diet regime post-weaning. Both extending lactation using a nurse sow or improving starter diet regime improved post-weaning growth of pigs. Nonetheless, allowing piglets to nurse until 7 weeks of age and then offered a high specification dietary regime showed a better margin-over-feed cost. This work showed the benefits of increasing weaning weight of pigs and the need to have a tailored lifetime nutrition for low weaning weight pigs.

6. Wet & Dry feeding to improve pigs’ performance (Part 1)

In this presentation we aimed to validate the use of a wet and dry feeding system for nursery pigs (4 to 10 weeks of age). We also aimed to identify the optimum water to feed ratio (litres of water per kg of diet) for post-weaning piglets, using dry fed pigs as a control group. We found that wet and dry feeding, irrespective of the water to feed ratio used, increases feed intake and daily growth of pigs compared to dry feeding. However, only the combination of feeding pigs a 2:1 ratio (2 litres of water per 1 kg diet) for 2 weeks after weaning followed by a 3:1 ratio until 10 weeks of age, had the same feed efficiency as dry feeding.

7. Wet & Dry feeding to improve pigs’ performance (Part 2)

In this presentation we aimed to validate the use of a wet and dry feeding system for finishing pigs (12 to 22 weeks of age). We compared feeding pigs a wet and dry of 3:1 (3 litres of water per 1 kg of diet) to conventional dry feeding. Wet and dry feeding system with finisher pigs did not present relevant differences to dry feeding for pigs from 12 to 22 weeks of age.

8. Sow nutrition to improve early piglet performance

In this presentation we to investigate different sow nutrition strategies with the final aim to improve piglets’ viability and performance. Salmon oil and vitamin D supplementation during gestation, and salmon oil supplementation and increasing energy density during lactation were studied in two different trials. Salmon oil and Vitamin D during gestation resulted in higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin D in colostrum, milk and piglets’ tissue, but no evident improvement in piglets’ growth or performance was observed. While salmon oil during lactation resulted in a slight reduction of piglet per-weaning mortality.