Building foundations and diet consistency are as important in piglet feeding as daily live weight gain and feed intake, especially with the requirement for reduced antibiotic use, according to ForFarmers.
Recent on-farm trials undertaken by ForFarmers’ piglet feed specialists have shown that by focusing on piglet gut health, producers see improvements in litter performance, a reduction in mortality and an improvement in DLWG at the end of the nursery period. All of this results in impressive financial returns for the producer, the company said.
The pig industry is facing up to a future with reduced use of antibiotics, lower copper levels and, from 2022, without zinc oxide at medicinal levels in piglet feed. ForFarmers believes it can be part of the solution, by particularly addressing the critical issue of gut health in young animals, which goes a long way to determining the level of medication required.
The RUMA Guidelines on reducing antibiotics and managing the health status of new born piglets states that: “A good programme of adequate nutrition, management, cleaning and disinfection and a good herd health programme are necessary to minimise the incidence and losses”.
In this context, nutrition plays a vital role in maintaining performance. This means it is vital to regularly review piglet feeding programmes which support good gut health and subsequently building solid foundations for future growth, ForFarmers said.
“Promoting gut health in the young pig becomes the primary consideration for piglet producers in a world with reduced and strategic use of antibiotics, while the typical parameters of performance (DLWG and feed intake) remain an important factor”” said ForFarmers piglet feed specialist Katie Stephen.
ForFarmers operates in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, as well as the UK and has seen how some other EU countries, in-feed antibiotics and reduced zinc oxideuse. Its piglet specialists maintain that using nutritional means to promote a healthy gut flora and protect the integrity of the gut is absolutely critical to controlling post weaning scour.
In the UK, ForFarmers have carried out trials on over 30 farms using their VIDA piglet feeds, a handful of these trials were to establish what producers would expect to be achieve by using diets without including antibiotics or zinc oxide which is currently included in the vast majority of diets.
The results below are from a trial was carried out using standard VIDA Maxima diets without any medication. According to ForFarmers this shows that, through building solid foundations, producers can achieve good growth, lower mortality and achieve solid financial benefits.
ForFarmers have also carried out trials using lower density starter diets which didn’t contain zinc oxide or medication. To date, these trials have shown that while piglet growth was slower in the first week post-weaning compared to medicated diets, the focus on optimal gut health helped to ensure superior growth and performance at the end of the nursery period through to finish.
This early work demonstrates that it is still feasible to achieve good pig performance despite a reduction in antibiotics and a removal of therapeutic levels of zinc oxide.
Ms Stephen added: “Feeding a well-designed pre-starter diet stimulates feed intake and supports gut health pre-weaning. The primary aim of pre-starter feeding should be gut conditioning to ensure a smooth transition through weaning. A quality pre-starter diet should be fed from four days of age followed by feeding a first stage diet five days before and five days after weaning. The benefit of this feeding strategy during the stressful weaning period maintains diet consistency, in terms of raw materials and flavours of the diet, to achieve optimum feed intakes immediately after weaning. This is key to reducing the post weaning dip and maintaining good health.”
In addition to the pre-starter diet, complimentary nutrition solutions provide additional support to encourage feed intake. This includes offering ForFarmers Corn Cob Mix (CCM) to piglets.
“The nutritional fibres in CCM also condition the gut and provide a safe alternative to peat. Offered alongside pre-starter, CCM is a highly palatable introductory feed stuff, which is high in lactic acid; encouraging ‘good‘ bacteria, such as Lactobacilli, to colonise the immature piglet’s gut. These attributes make it ideal for supporting gut health which is the foundation for growth, especially with the reduction of antibiotics and the medicinal zinc-oxide ban” Ms Stephen added.
ForFarmers are now able to provide their pig customers with the information they require to upload in feed medication into their electronic medicine book (eMB) for pigs database; an industry led initiative to support farmers record data on their usage of antibiotics more accurately.