A good creep
Average piglet wean age has crept higher in the last several years as the swine industry has begun to more fully realize the benefits of weaning an older, heavier pig.
It has been reported that only 50 percent of weaned pigs consume their first meal within 24 hours post-weaning and as many as 10 percent do not eat until more than 48 hours post-weaning. Therefore, we often observe a lag in piglet growth immediately following weaning.
At weaning, piglets must undergo an abrupt shift from sow’s milk to dry feed. Creep feeding gives piglets the opportunity to acclimate to dry feed before they are weaned. Creep feeding has been shown to improve feed intake and daily gain after weaning (Bruininx et al., 2002, Sulabo et al., 2010a, Sulabo et al., 2010b). It has also been suggested that creep feeding decreases the nutrient demands of lactating sows, which may reduce sow weight loss and shorten the wean-to-estrus interval.
Despite the potential benefits of creep feeding, it isn’t always easy to implement. Creep feeding is sometimes thought of as an extra or “nonessential” practice in an already busy farrowing room. Therefore, it sometimes may not get done on a regular basis after initial implementation.
Here are some pointers to effectively implement creep feeding into your operation:
- Make sure time is set aside every day to creep feed correctly. This includes feeding frequently, yet never feeding too much at once as creep feed may not all get consumed and will be wasted.
- Start creep feeding early to achieve a greater proportion of piglets in a litter consuming creep feed by weaning time. Sulabo et al. (2007) found that, the earlier creep feed was offered (timing of first offering ranged from day 2 to 20 of lactation), the greater the proportion of piglets within a litter that ate. However, the same authors reported that creep feeding early in the piglets’ life did not have an impact on pre-weaning weight gain or weaning weight.
- Offer the same feed both before and immediately after weaning to promote a smoother transition onto dry feed in the nursery.
- Ensure that a fresh water supply is available to all piglets.
- Make sure creep feeders are easy to clean and sanitize, difficult for piglets to shift position or lie in, and easy to access and explore. Recent research suggests that feeder design also plays a role in the frequency at which piglets were observed at the creep feeder. More information on these results can be found here.
- Creep feed can be offered in multiple forms, including meal, pellet, or a pellet and meal combination. While many producers prefer a pellet for its higher digestibility, creep feeding pellets on a mat can be problematic as pellets may roll or bounce off the mat more easily.
- Store creep feed properly and only keep small quantities on hand. Be sure to store feed in ambient temperatures below 80 degrees F and in low-humidity areas.
Implementing creep feeding into your operation can give piglets an opportunity to get acclimated to dry feed prior to weaning, and can potentially improve performance in the nursery period. The Vita Plus swine nutrition team looks forward to providing technical information and management strategies that can help you improve pig performance and profitability. Contact your Vita Plus consultant to learn more about creep feeding on your operation.
About the author: Dr. Leah Gesing is a Vita Plus swine technical sales and support specialist. She earned her bachelor’s degree in animal science from Iowa State University. She continued there to earn her master’s degree in animal physiology, studying on-farm factors affecting market hog transport losses. She then went on to the University of Illinois to earn her Ph.D. in animal sciences. While in school, Gesing was involved with numerous research projects, teaching experiences, internships, and international travel. Specifically, she conducted applied research in swine genetics, health, management and reproduction with Dr. Mike Ellis. Her Ph.D. project evaluated the effect of timing of OvuGel® administration on reproductive performance in gilts synchronized for estrus.
Feed quality and nutrition