Nurture the pennies to aid your pounds

In my last endeavour writing this comment, I advocated the importance of feeding our high calibre new born entrants correctly; their colossal innate and efficient growth potential converting lbs in to ££’s out.
The first stage nursery is a crucial and ideal place to start when considering feeding and slaughter herd performance. By continually challenging our routines and practices we strive to improve our MOF (margin over feed) which often tips the balance between red and black.
Diet composition throughout the pig’s life cycle has huge ramifications on gut microbiota, intestinal health and a proper functioning immune system.
But putting all of our first stage aspirations aside, have we missed a trick? We spend copious amounts of time in pursuit of the perfect post-weaning diet or feeding regime; but our piglets’ gut has already been developing and exposed to pathogen infiltration when suckling the sow.
There is little doubt of the benefits that early colostrum has on gut development, as an energy source for thermoregulation, a substrate for protein synthesis and perhaps most importantly, a passive supply of protection against enteric pathogens.
This protection is afforded from Immunoglobulins or antibodies, which are large, Y-shaped proteins used by the immune system to identify and neutralise pathogens such as bacteria and viruses.
Ferrari et al., (2014) cited that piglets from gilts consumed less colostrum than piglets from multiparous sows and that these gilt litters had less gut development after 42 days when compared to their buddies.
Furthermore, when combining the effect of birth weight and immunoglobulin intake from colostrum, piglets born with a low birthweight (<1.1kg) have lower colostrum intake, lower IgG concentrations leading to markedly reduced viability.
With the number born alive continuing to increase on many farms, it is often to the detriment of piglet birth weight. After all, the sow has finite uterine space in which to supply her litter with nutrients during gestation.
Problem: higher numbers born of lower birthweight piglets that need immunoglobulins to survive.
Solution: novel, targeted and specific supplementary piglet nutrition.
Research by Devenish has shown that by investing pennies into specifically targeting and supplementing the suckling phase we can add up to 2kg onto the back of that transferred first stage pig. This benefit can be compounded five-fold when we consider the rule of thumb that an extra 1kg at the end of first stage is 5kg more at slaughter.
By nurturing our new-borns with specific nutrients, the same research has shown increased creep feed intake with the subsequent benefits on gut maturity that this brings. By increasing specific nutrient intake our research suggests additional benefits such as significant rises in serum immunoglobulin content leading to a potential reduction in mortality.
By investing a few pence to nurture your piglets early on, you can transform the margins in your growing herd. Nurture your pennies to aid your pounds!

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About The Author

Editor of Pig World and contributor to LBM’s other farming publications. Also National Pig Association webmaster. Formerly political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years. Enjoy a bit of media punditry. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm. Work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Under-9 football coach and big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.