One of my colleagues often quips, ‘out of every challenge comes an opportunity’, and in the pig industry, that has always been the case.
With a potential ban on the use of pharmaceutical zinc oxide the latest in a long line of challenges, we now have the impetus and opportunity to re-examine what we do, and perhaps more importantly, why we do it.
I often find myself standing in a farrowing pen in awe of the latest generation of newborn piglets. Think about it, in just five months’ time, that little piglet will have grown to be not far off 100 times as heavy as it is now.
These animals are born with colossal genetic ability for efficient growth. It’s our job to grasp it. Innovative nutrition combined with robust feeding strategies has a well-documented effect on the development of the immune system, gut structure and function. An animal with a well-developed immune system will display a high level of immune-competence and will be less susceptible to disease, showing more efficient production throughout its lifetime.
“These animals are born with colossal genetic ability for efficient growth. It’s our job to grasp it”
This is why it is critical to have the correct feeding programme in place during the suckling phase before the transition at weaning. Beattie et al., (2007) evaluated growth performance and variation between pigs on eight farms to determine the causes of differentiating performance, both within and between herds. The results of this study showed that the key to unlocking lifetime performance comes in the critical four weeks post-weaning.
Growth rates on the best performing units at four weeks’ post-weaning had the highest Daily Live-weight Gain (DLwtGn) right through until slaughter. The difference between the top and bottom units was huge – 18 days until slaughter.
Units with lower growth rates during the first four weeks post-weaning never matched that of their high performing counterparts.
Early nutritional intervention using key and specific dietary composition can help safeguard intestinal health and proper functioning of the digestive system.
Revolutionary thinking around nutrient delivery from the Devenish group has shone a new light on pig performance. Nurturaid has demonstrated that by delivering the correct nutrients at the right time in an appropriate concentration, eight-week weight can be increased by at least 2kg.
If there’s a potential extra 2kg to be captured, every generation needs to embrace this revolution.
Mark Williams is a technical pig nutritionist with Devenish