In addition to quality sow nutrition, young pig management is essential in producing 30 pigs per sow per year. Include in your young pig management plan: strategies for comfort, hydration and nutrition.
“The environment for the weaned pig should be comfortable to keep stress low,” says Dan McManus, swine specialist for Purina Animal Nutrition. “Evaluate and adjust temperature, ventilation and humidity routinely.”
- Temperature: Start young pigs at about 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Transition temperature down to roughly 65 degrees Fahrenheit over a seven week period.
- Air quality: Maintain ventilation to keep air fresh. Well-functioning ventilators help remove undesirable compounds, including ammonia, dust and pathogens.
- Humidity: Relative humidity should be maintained between 50 and 60 percent to prevent bacterial and viral growth.
“When I work with producers to create a constructive care plan for the nursery, our first priority is to get the pigs drinking,” says Becky Bierlein, young animal specialist for Purina Animal Nutrition, explaining that mortality rates are more prevalent if a pig loses 15 percent of its water weight.
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. Providing gels and electrolytes at weaning can help improve hydration levels.
“I put the gel on mats in every pen at weaning,” Bierlein said. “It provides hydration and helps the pigs learn to eat as a group. It’s a stimulation practice to get the pigs up and eating together. I put the gel in front of the pigs every day after weaning and they often are onto the dry pellet within five days.”
Bierlein also recommends providing electrolytes to pigs in times of stress.
“Electrolytes work to keep hydration levels up and minimize that stress at weaning by providing necessary nutrients (sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium and magnesium) to the pig,” she says. “I put 5-gallon buckets with electrolytes in each pen for the first 5-7 days post-weaning. Electrolytes can also be fed through medicators very easily.”
“When we’re weaning young pigs, we need to feed very digestible milk products – both before and after weaning,” says McManus. “The nutrition we provide to young pigs should be highly palatable.”
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.
“Budget pigs by size and mat feed post-weaning to stimulate intake,” he added. “Then do a health check every day on every pig to make sure they are not falling behind.”
Managing the Challenged Pig
Nursery nutrition and management is even more critical for Challenged Pigs – those impacted by illnesses, early weaning and transport.
“For Challenged Pigs, the basics are very similar to normal pigs; only, if we make mistakes, they’re magnified,” says 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.”
To learn more about young pig nutrition and management, contact Becky Bierlein at 419-773-0280 or RLBierlein@landolakes.com or Dan McManus at (712) 898-2162 or DMMcManus@landolakes.com.
 McManus, Dan. “What’s your pig’s potential and what’s it going to cost?” World Pork Expo presentation. 5 June 2014.
 “What is the proper thermal environment for nursery pigs?” University of Wisconsin-Extension. http://www.extension.org/pages/40233/what-is-proper-thermal-environment-for-nursery-pigs#.U81S7rHpVGk. 21 July 2014.
 Varley and Stockill. 2001.
 “How to minimize nursery fallouts.” Pork Magazine. Nov/Dec. 2013.