As access to pharmaceutical products, such as antibiotics and medical zinc is reduced, there will be an increased focus on good craftsmanship. This applies, for example, to managing health, hygiene, feed composition and feeding strategies.
In this section, we specifically focus on feeding. This is because when we can no longer use pharmaceutical products, it is more important than ever that the feed is composed to support the pig's transition from a liquid to a solid diet. The challenge is in a certain way, as always, but now there is no mineral at hand that can solve it.
The composition of the feed
Discontinuing medical zinc requires that you, together with your Vilofoss sales consultant, have a greater focus on highly digestible vegetable raw materials minimizing substances that can disturb the pig's immune and digestive system. In addition, selected additives can support the pig's digestive tract development and compensate for the not yet fully developed digestive capacity. High digestibility is essential for the pig's development.
The composition of the feed is important for the health of the pigs. This is a balancing act, especially when the pigs are very small.
Reducing protein and amino acid levels, a reduction will lower the risk of diarrhoea, but at the same time, growth will also decrease. For example, soybean meal contains substances that inhibit protein digestion and that can cause challenges. To reduce the challenges for the pig, it is important to try to match the pig's protein digestion capacity as best as possible to optimize the relationship between the risk of diarrhoea and growth.
When the pigs exceed 15 kg, it will be possible to increase the supply of nutrients to a greater extent without overloading the pig. It is important always to have a healthy balance between energy and protein levels to avoid behavioural and digestive challenges.
Our recommendations for:
- Use easily digestible protein sources with a low content of substances that negatively affect the immune system and digestion (milk powder, soy protein concentrate, potato protein, potentially fish meal, blood plasma, etc.)
- Use various protein sources
- Moderate protein level
- Good taste (naturally from raw materials, but also taste/aroma to stimulate feed intake)
- Adapted fibre contents
- Balanced amino acid profile
- Focus on the effect of feed on stomach pH
- Vitamins/minerals (sources and levels) that stimulate the pig's immune system and digestive function
Feeding before weaning is essential to produce a world class pig. It should preferably be an easily digestible product with a good and sweet taste; further, it is optimal if the feed is administered near the sow's head, as it provides the piglets with fast learning if they watch the sow eating the feed.
Experiments show that pigs that have not eaten feed before weaning are up to three days slower to start feeding after they have been weaned. This just emphasizes the point that the pigs preferably are to become familiar with the feed already at an early stage in the farrowing unit.
It is also important that the pig has a balanced feed intake. The fact that the pig does not eat, and that the intestine is thus emptied is just as challenging as the pig’s overeating.
The optimum is if the pigs consume only the amount of nutrients they can digest.
In order to achieve the best feeding strategy, we recommend that you work with a gradual feed change controlled by the feeding system. In addition, you need to emphasize age more than weight. This is for the reason that the development of the pig's digestive tract is linked to age to a greater extent than to the pig's weight.
Liquid feed can attract the pigs' interest, but when feed with a high content of milk and other easily digestible feed is used, hygiene is of great importance. We recommend that you soak the feed using FirstFeeder or in long troughs, providing good inspection opportunities and accommodating the pigs' social element at feed intake.
Administering dry feed is the least labour-intensive method. Dry feed can be administered in long troughs or on a solid floor. Using long troughs, all the pigs can be seen "on their feet". To minimize feed waste, administering on a solid floor requires frequent administering of small amounts, and it requires that the feed is placed as far away from the slatted floor as possible.
One of the most overlooked but essential elements in a good feeding strategy is the drinking water, where the pH value in the water valve should be below 4.5, which is why acid must be added. If substantial amounts of acid are required, mixed acid should be used rather than formic acid for optimal palatability and water intake. Note that acid should not be used together with chlorine and in water-purifying plants, as the acid can react with the chlorine compounds.
It will often be a clever idea to taste the water yourself. If it tastes bad, the water intake will be too low.
Both PrimeFeed Safe and VF Wean have proven to be reliable feed solutions for piglets, as both concepts have been developed, based on DLG's own, but also independent scientific trials.
The key, however, is that a veterinary screening is conducted before the transition to zinc-free feeding, where you are provided with a complete picture of the herd’s health status.
We also recommend that you are in regular dialogue with one of our consultants about feeding strategies and solutions to get advice and ideas for new measures and to fine-tune the work and routines in the stable.