<%@LANGUAGE="JavaScript1.3"%> Swine Production Management - Nursery - Weaning(the first five days)

Weaning (the first five days)


Pre-weaning behavior:
It is important to try and mimic as much as possible the pig's requirements pre-weaning in that immediate post weaning period.
Each piglet has:

  1. A drinker each

  2. A feeder each

  3. Minimal competition at eating/drinking

  4. Eat and drink warm liquid feed

  5. Eat and drink as a group

  6. Eat and drink once every 1-2 hours. Sows in crates feed once every hour, those loose housed by 24 days feed once every 2 hours, the weaning process has started

  7. Mother determines the time to eat ? the piglet does not. It is not an instinctive drinker, it is behaviour driven

  8. Sleep as a group

  9. Clearly defined sleeping area

  10. The piglet may not even recognize itself as an individual, only recognize the group

  • How many of these normal behaviors are catered for after weaning?

Basic management required for the weaner:
(Note that the pig would normally be weaned over a 12 week period)

  • It is essential to train the newly weaned pigs where their water supply is positioned
  • The water supply needs to provide more than 500 mls/min. Less than this flow, pigs will not spend more time to get their water supply. In the first week post-weaning there is no variation in water intake over the 24 hours, unlike after a week where water consumption is more during the day and becomes associated with feed. Turkey drinkers provide a surface of water and allow pigs to drink as a group. Wasted water can be minimized if the drinker is suitably balanced. Turkey drinkers can be used for hospital pigs as they are easier to clean than a cube drinker. However, sufficient space is required for turkey drinkers, they require some big pen concepts. Insufficient water supply leads to fighting and ultimately variation in the group. Consider adding a sweetener to the water if it encourages intake.

  • Assess whether the pigs are comfortable by looking at the pigs when they are asleep and look where and how they are lying. It is essential to provide a sleeping area which is draught free and with an initial air temperature of 30oC either through adequate artificial heating, heated floors or straw/bedding. Avoid gases moving from the slurry pits into the pig?s building. Enter pens quietly to assess weaner lying patterns. Noisy stock people will miss clear evidence of draughts.
  • Keep the lights on for the first 3 days so the pigs can find the equipment, before weaning they probably had 24 hours of light.

A big pen with a draught free sleeping area at the back of the pen

  • The floor needs to be non abrasive. Having steps to feeders can cause damage to the knees and legs, particularly important in future breeding stock. The stocking rate is important and you need to avoid both under and over stocking. This can only be achieved through good pig flow. Pigs to 20 kg require 0.2 m2, to 30 kg they require 0.3 m2. All-in/all-out, adequate pressure washing/disinfecting is essential to prevent cross over of infection from one group to the next. The use of lime washing where possible is to be encouraged.
  • To manage the pigs adequately it is essential to maximize the weaning weight. Aim to cope with the smaller weaned pigs, one possibility is by streaming these pigs sideways. Providing more ideal environments and possibly medication. These pigs should be provided with wet creep feed for longer than the rest of the group. Moving 10% of the pigs sideways, giving them good hospital accommodation and possibly re-introduce them back into the main group but at 18 kg + even if these pigs are a week older. Never introduce compromised pigs back into newly weaned pigs at 7 kg, the immune system of the 7 kg pigs is grossly inadequate to cope.
Feed has several aspects in the 1st five days


Feed at this stage is a high quality, high cost milk diet. It is essential not to store the feed at above 18oC ? which exists in all weaner houses. Ensure the feed bag is closed at all times. The feed will sour quickly.
Hygiene of feed Ensure feed is properly stored. Protect the feed from infestation, for example store off the ground. Rodent contamination is a source of Salmonellosis
Number of times to feed Prior to weaning pigs eat every 1-2 hours (12-24 times a day) depending on the management system. The mother determines feed times, the piglet does not, therefore, feed little and often. On several farms the newly weaned pigs are fed 8 x a day and even this is compromised but fits into a working day. This is continued for 3 to 4 days post-weaning. Ensure all weaners eat. While this seems extreme, if the feed intake in the first week can be optimized this can be worth 10 days to finish and the reduction in treatments easily compensates for the extra labor effort. This can be reduced over the 1st week to 2-3 times a day feeding.
Type of feed The piglet thrives on liquid/porridge type feed. Provide a creep/water mix and provide for the 1st few days. The aim is to get the pigs to ?beg? for the feed, this makes identification of any poor intake pig much easier, but does require a feeding system where all pigs can eat together. Any weaner that misses two eating episodes should be taken to the trough and force fed/watered. The provision of clean, warmed acidified feed helps to control post-weaning diarrhea.
Type of feeder

It is vitally important in the first week that all pigs can eat together and therefore a trough is required. The neck space for a pig at 7-10 kg is 70-100 mm. The turkey drinker can help as it can be used as a wet feeder in the first 3 days. The use of long feed troughs can provide sufficient space. Once the pigs are eating we can then increase the dry feeding through a trough. The feeder shown is for illustration only.
Minimize waste

  • Review feeder usage to minimize waste. Avoid floor feeding if possible unless you can justify this on economic grounds.
  • The picture shows feed that the weaners have wasted and has fallen through the slats. This only helps to encourage rats, birds and flies to the farm