It is important to stimulate the consumption of solid feed in lactating piglets. This early feeding appears to be vital for good post-weaning performance. It is therefore essential to find strategies that initiate early feed intake, to improve the level of consumption and develop more robust piglets. New concepts have recently emerged to secure feed intake, reduce health problems, and improve animal welfare.
TRANSITION & WEANING: A MAJOR CHALLENGE FOR FARMERS
Nowadays, piglets are weaned and exposed to solid feed at an early age in an effort to increase litter numbers and productivity. However, early weaning is often associated with high stress and can lead to poor growth, intestinal disorders, and other problems.
Two of the major challenges faced by piglets at weaning are separation from the sow and switching from liquid to solid feed at a time when the young animal’s physiology and immune system are still developing. Due to the new environment and the change in feed, the piglets are under a lot of stress and their feed intake drops significantly. Not only can it take days for piglets to recover, it can compromise future growth, lead to a heterogeneous litter with a higher proportion of so-called “weak” piglets and negatively affect piglet health. Indeed, reduced feed intake not only limits the amount of nutrients ingested by young piglets, but also depletes the gut of nutrients at a time when its development is essential. When intestinal development is impaired, nutrient absorption is sub-optimal and weaned piglets are more susceptible to disease (diarrhoea, etc.). In addition, weaning can have various impacts on the behavior of young piglets: it can, for example, increase the appearance of harmful behaviors (biting, etc.). These are typical behaviors observed after weaning, which reflect welfare problems and their consequences on farm productivity.
In summary, when piglets are stressed at weaning, their feed intake is reduced, leading to slower gut maturation, and therefore not only leading to delayed and heterogeneous growth, but also to health and welfare issues that have all impact agricultural productivity.
STIMULATING POST-WEANING CONSUMPTION: THE LATEST INNOVATIONS
It is important to stimulate the consumption of solid feed in lactating piglets. This early feeding appears to be vital for good post-weaning performance. It is therefore essential to find strategies that initiate early feed intake, to improve the level of consumption and develop more robust piglets. New concepts have recently emerged to secure feed intake, reduce health problems, and improve animal welfare. Recently, an innovative company has developed a new technology (NUQO©), based on micro-granulation and the combination of different active ingredients:
• Ingredients work synergistically to create a unique taste through a multi-sensory approach, which stimulates curiosity in piglets and arouses interest in feed during the weaning period
• Sweet taste enhancers improve feed intake and support gut development and maturation (Moran, 2010), which in turn improves nutrient absorption and feed efficiency
• Finally, molecules such as phytogenic (from cinnamon or anise) act directly on intestinal health and reduce inflammation (Conforti, 2010; Liu, 2012) and indirectly promote feed consumption.
• The exclusive micro-granulation technology implemented and the multi-layer structure guarantee the stability of the active ingredients and allow targeted release for greater efficiency
STATE-OF-THE-ART TECHNOLOGY THAT BOOSTS PERFORMANCE!
Several field trials have been conducted to validate the effect of this technology during the post-weaning period. These tests have repeatedly shown the added value of this “all-in-one” technology, including when faced with solutions frequently used in these cases (sweet or umami enhancer, aroma, probiotic, phytogenics, etc.). This technology is now used across the globe, in Europe but also in Asia and America.
In particular, a study was conducted at the University of Berlin in Germany in the spring of 2022 under the supervision of Professor K. Männer. A total of 200 healthy piglets (Danbred F1 x Duroc) of both sexes were selected and evenly distributed according to body weight, litter origin and sex in 20 pens (10 pen per treatment) from d 25 to d 66 of age (feeding period of 42 d). The piglets were weaned at 25 days (± 2 days, approximately 7 kg), and fed with 2 treatments, on the one hand a negative control (NC) and on the other hand a treatment containing the new technology presented previously (NQ). Weaned piglets were fed a starter diet for two weeks (d 25 to d 38) and a subsequent grower diet for four weeks (d 39 to d 66). The diets were based on barley, corn, soybean meal and wheat. Skimmed milk powder was used in the starter diet (10%). All diets were supplemented with a nutritional level of zinc oxide (80g/t).
The study made it possible to monitor several types of measurements: Zootechnical performance (body weight gain, feed intake and feed/gain ratio) was recorded each week at the pen level. On the other hand, the incidence of diarrhea was assessed weekly by a faecal consistency score (on a pen basis) using a scale from 0 (normal consistency) to 3 (severe diarrhea).
A BETTER START AND MORE HOMOGENEOUS AND HEALTHIER GROUPS!
During the onset period (1-14 days post-weaning), performance differences were not significant (p>0.05) but NQ Technology supplementation numerically improved weight gain by 10% and food consumption by 4% compared to NC. The conversion index was also improved by NQ (-6%) compared to NC.
During the total period (1 to 42 days post-weaning), the positive trends in weight gain observed in the onset phase became significant: NQ improved body weight gain by 5% compared to NC. During the same period, feed consumption improved by 3% while feed efficiency improved by 2%.
At day 42 post-weaning, not only animal performance but also herd homogeneity was improved by NQ, mainly due to a reduction in the number of small piglets compared to NC. Considering the price and the inclusion rate of the NQ technology, the return on investment for this trial was 1 in 5.
Regarding health parameters, the incidence of diarrhea and medication was low. Nevertheless, NQ technology significantly improved fecal consistency by 60% compared to NC in start-up, growth and overall period.
The results of this trial confirm that this new technology can be used to improve feed intake, weight gain and feed efficiency of piglets in the critical first two weeks after weaning and up to 42 days after weaning. This innovation also reduced the incidence of diarrhea, which reveals its contribution to good maturation of the piglet’s intestine. Finally, this treatment improved herd homogeneity on day 42 post-weaning by reducing the number of small piglets. Overall, the trial confirms that this new technology can be used to improve feed intake and, indirectly, the health and performance of piglets, especially low performing animals.
IMPROVE WELL-BEING WITHOUT COMPROMISING FUTURE RESULTS
Taken together, these experiments confirm that supplementation of these new hybrid concepts can improve the welfare of young piglets and, at the same time, improve piglet performance. These all-in-one concepts involve multiple modes of action that stimulate feed intake, reduce post-weaning stress in young animals and secure long-term performance. Obviously, these concepts are stable and easy to use in feed but also comply with the local regulatory environment, for example regarding the ingredients allowed for piglets or sows. More importantly, the technical benefits observed have been converted into return on investment to support farm profitability, indicating that these concepts also represent sustainable alternatives for the future of pig farming.