The Effect of Different Weaning Strategies on Piglet Performance and Immune Function

Allen, Mary (2004). The Effect of Different Weaning Strategies on Piglet Performance and Immune Function. PhD thesis The Open University.



The weaning period in commercial pig production has been a continuing problem for both the piglet and producer. An investigation was carried out to assess the effects of different, relatively simple, management strategies on the stress associated with the weaning period in terms of piglet performance, behaviour and immune status. Three of the main areas identified as playing a key part in the stress associated with weaning were mixing of unfamiliar piglets, relocation to a new environment and adaptation to a new diet. Management strategies were designed relating to assess these factors.
The studies highlighted that mixing piglets pre-weaning at 14 days of age was a positive step to aid the transition of weaning, in terms of performance and immune status and requires little adaptation of current farrowing systems. Mixing at either 7 or 21 days of age does not show the same improvements in post-weaning performance.
Remaining in a familiar environment was not beneficial, and may possibly be detrimental, to the newly weaned piglet and indeed, relocation to a novel environment appears to be important for the piglet psychologically and motivates the piglet to explore its new environment and search for alternative food sources.
The benefits of creep feeding still needs further consideration in order to determine the optimal feeding strategy in relation to feed intakes pre- and post-weaning combined with the effects of creep feed on the underdeveloped digestive tract.
Although it is not possible to completely remove the growth check that occurs post-weaning, it is clear that management strategies can be utilised to reduce the stress associated with weaning and improve post-weaning growth rates.

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