Producers and production staff focus diligently on transitioning pigs to a successful post-weaning program. This involves many areas, including nutrition, environment, health and an effective staff. More recently, commercial research as part of the Improving Pig Survivability Project that is supported by the National Pork Board and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, evaluated the routine practices of mat and gruel feeding. While many “believe” these practices help the young pig, surprisingly little comparison data is available to make best practice decisions.

Mat Feeding

Mat feeding is commonly practiced throughout the swine industry to increase feed accessibility after weaning. However, limited research data is available to validate current protocols or potential benefits of mat feeding. Many questions remain on how effective it is to feed pigs on mats post-weaning.

We used 9,403 newly weaned pigs in three experiments to evaluate mat feeding for 10 days post-weaning to enhance growth and survivability post-weaning. When combining the removal and mortality data for the three experiments, mat-fed pigs had fewer total removals compared to those pigs not provided feed on mats. However, mat feeding had limited effects on the growth performance of pigs after weaning. Still, mat feeding strategies may encourage earlier feed intake therefore reducing the morbidity and mortality rate of pigs.

The results indicate that the outcome of mat feeding may also be determined by health status and current morbidity and mortality rates.

Gruel Feeding

Gruel feeding is a strategy commonly used throughout the swine industry to transition wean pigs from a milk-based diet to solid feed. Like mat feeding, limited research publications are available to validate gruel feeding practices and the impact on pig survivability. For pigs that struggle to maintain nutrient intake after weaning, there are few intervention strategies available to increase blood glucose. Depleted energy reserves may further prevent pigs from consuming feed and water.

 

Our team decided to study this within a 24,000-nursery complex. We used 4,075 light and fallback nursery pigs to determine how both gruel feeding and an oral administration of 10 mL dextrose effects mortality of pigs post-weaning. The results showed that gruel feeding small pigs two versus four times per day for 14-day post-placement did not influence the removal (14.1% vs 15.6%) or mortality rate (3.8% vs 4.3%) from weaning to the end of the gruel feeding period.

Oral dextrose administration did not influence survivability of lame/sick/fallback pigs. However, blood glucose concentrations were increased in pigs administered dextrose, which confirms that dextrose supplementation increased circulating blood glucose.

These findings indicate that producers do not need to spend extra labor and investment in gruel feeding more than two times per day or providing an oral dose of carbohydrates.

 

Find additional management and nutrition resources on pig survivability for all production phases via factsheets and videos at www.piglivabilty.org and www.ksuswine.org.

Farm Journal’s Pork | Joel DeRouchey, Madie Wensley, Mike Tokach, Jason Woodworth, Bob Goodband and Jordan Gebhardt of Kansas State University – KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY RESEARCH AND EXTENSION- | February 08, 

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