Purina Animal Nutrition provided tips for minimizing the stress of weaning at an industry seminar at World Pork Expo. Presenters shared information on employee empowerment and young pig nutrition, crediting nursery management and the weaning transition as key drivers to industry success.
“Early pig management sets the stage for Full Value Pigs, with the post-weaning period playing a big role in the process,” said Becky Bierlein, young animal specialist for Purina Animal Nutrition. “The biggest stress on a pig’s life is moving him or her from the sow to the nursery. Your toolbox is your support system in minimizing that stress, so load it to the gills.”
Attentive management is especially important post-weaning due to the young age of the piglets.
“We need to remember that weaned pigs are still babies when they arrive in the nursery,” added Sarah Probst Miller, DVM, creative director and president of AgCreate Solutions, Inc. “These 3-week old pigs are the equivalent of a 2-year old human. They need more intensive care and people looking after them more intensively in the first 3-5 weeks in the weaning barn because that’s when they are more likely to fall behind or get sick.”
To minimize the stress of weaning, a producer’s post-weaning toolbox should provide: employee education, a healthy environment and quality hydration and nutrition to young pigs:
- Employee empowerment: To empower employees, Probst Miller encourages team leaders to educate their teams on the industry and the importance of their actions, outlining a nursery care process with the following tips: Clearly outline day-in and out responsibilities; Emphasize why actions are important; and Verify completion of tasks.
- Environment: “The environment for the weaned pig should be comfortable to keep stress low,” said Dan McManus, swine specialist for Purina Animal Nutrition. “Evaluate and adjust temperature, ventilation and humidity routinely.”
- Hydration: Industry research has shown that only 51 percent of pigs consume water 25 hours post-weaning due to unfamiliarity with surroundings and the stress of movement.3 Providing gels and electrolytes at weaning can help improve hydration levels.
- Nutrition: Creep feed prior to weaning and the first feed post-weaning should include a complex combination of nutrients with a variety of amino acids, probiotics and neutraceuticals. This combination helps to stimulate gut areas and strengthens immunity. 4
- Managing the Challenged Pig: “For Challenged Pigs, the basics are very similar to normal pigs; only, if we make mistakes, they’re magnified,” said McManus. “We need to provide even more attention and care to Challenged Pigs. Have a plan in place that accounts for environment, nutrition, hydration and management – both for normal post-weaning and for Challenged Pigs.”
3 Varley and Stockill. 2001.
4 “How to minimize nursery fallouts.” Pork Magazine. Nov/Dec. 2013.