A supercreep is one designed and usually made by a specialist company with a carefully chosen and restricted choice of raw materials, writes John Gadd.
Research has now developed a food which will not aggravate the gut lining of the very young, unweaned piglet and so defend it from scouring, which is the piglets “lavatory flush” reaction to remove digestively hostile elements in the gut out of harm’s way.
Other ingredients are included that complement and reinforce the immature immune system of the baby pig (such as specialised egg protein, as well as nucleotides which are forerunners of amino acids), together with special fats and sugars that act as modifying agents counteracting the effect of hostile bacteria on a very delicate digestive system.
This is all increasingly important now that in-feed antibiotic supplements are increasingly being banned. These alternative and specialised ingredients cost a lot of money and need expensive manufacturing equipment, so it’s no wonder a supercreep ends up being expensive.
Is the cost justified?
Understandably, the producer is shaken when told that these new creep feed formulae could cost him near to £2,000/t – two-and-a-half to three times the cost of a standard creep. I find there’s still considerable sales resistance to the concept, and the producer should have a good look at a situation, which is so different now to 20 years ago.
The main considerations are:
- We have had to forego the antibiotic feed supplements that helped counteract the damage to the gut lining that the “old favourite”, cheaper ingredients could cause.
- Sows are now capable of rearing litters that put on a total of 86kg by 28 day weaning, exactly double that of 20 years ago and one-third more than only a short six years back. One way of taking this heavy strain off the lactating sow is to creep-feed her increasingly growth-efficient offspring.
- Not to support the sow in this way shortens her productive life. This is already showing in the need for more frequent renewal of breeding females, increasing expensive replacement costs by 22%. The latest results show that supercreep feeding can extend a sow’s productive output by 1.7 parities, thus helping counteract the increased replacement costs.
- In addition, a reproductively stressed sow in lactation has to direct about 16% of her energy intake and 10% of her protein needs into reinforcing her challenged immune shield – not into her milk – so the litter suffers too.
Super creep-fed litters eat about 100g more per piglet to 28 day weaning. Between 700-850g/piglet (BPEX 2012) compared to standard creep feeds at about 600g/pig on farms of equal management and stockperson competence. The cost, even at £2,000/t, is about 85p/piglet, compared to 51p for a standard creep feed – a premium of 34p/piglet.
The first thing to notice is how small this contribution is to the approximate £58 total feed cost these days of rearing a slaughter pig; it’s less than 0.6%. And the AIV (Annual investment Value – see my fist blog in this series from December 2013) is fantastic and beats nearly everything on offer as a viable way to spend money.
Performance to slaughter
To judge the full benefit of feeding super creep, remember you must look at the performance rifght to slaughter, not to weaning. All research on early pig rearing should be assessed at slaughter. This is because a nutritional advantage at weaning can often be trebled by slaughter weight. Anyway, that’s when the cheque arrives to decide if your investment has been worthwhile!
The advantage of using super creep has often been recorded as six to eight days quicker to 105kg/liveweight. Ignoring the saved overheads from a faster turnround, that’s six days’ food saved at 27.4p/kg (UK, 2014) worth £3.60. This provides an REO (Return on Extra Outlay) of 10.9:1, when many REOs for other good products and systems today struggle to exceed 6:1.
So, while the cost of supercreeps may at first seem off-putting, the likely benefits are very worthwhile indeed.
Time to upgrade, I guess.
> John Gadd, who is celebrating 60 years’ involvement in pig production this year, has had more than 2,800 articles about pigs published and has written three best-selling pig textbooks. With hands-on experience that includes managing a grow-out herd at 1,800 ft in Banffshire, Scotland, and 20 years in the allied industries with Boots’ Farm Department, RHM Agriculture and Taymix, he set up his own international pig management consultantcy in the mid 1980s and has now visited more than 3,000 pig units in 33 countries as a pig management adviser. (Photo courtesy Bournemouth Daily Echo)