#Justask - Hubèrt van Hees

15 January 2021Time: 3 minutes

Nutrition as a common thread in the life of a piglet

A piglet undergoes radical changes in its life. From birth, where a piglet depends on colostrum, to the transition to milk, to the sudden transition to solid feed during weaning. According to Hubèrt van Hees from Trouw Nutrition, piglet feed can play an important role in preparing your piglets for the next stage of life. Do you want to know how?

A good feed intake in piglets means a healthy and robust one. On January 28 at 14.30 hrs CET, Hubèrt will explain more about how you can achieve a better feed intake in your piglets. Check out some of the questions we already asked Hubèrt and send in your questions today!

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What are the biggest challenges regarding piglet feed?

‘Weaning causes a lot of stress for piglets because they are separated from the sow, ’ Hubèrt explains. ‘On top of that, the piglet has to deal with the switch to solid feed. Trouw Nutrition has spent over 100 years researching how we can make the transition to solid feed more gradual to prevent the weaning dip. How do you make sure that piglets eat enough? How do you make sure that they can find the piglet feeder and have developed the motoric skills to pick up solids? How do you make sure that the gastrointestinal system adjusts in time to prevent diarrhea? Many elements need to be taken into account.’

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What can you do?

According to Hubèrt, you can look at these four different aspects when choosing the feed, which help to prevent the weaning dip:

1.     Odors and flavorings

Next to considering what the piglet likes, it’s also important if a piglet recognizes the odors and flavorings from what the sow has passed on via the placenta or the milk.

2.    The choice of raw material

How well developed are the stomach and intestines? Dietary fiber stimulates the development of the volume of the stomach and intestines, which later ensures better feed intake.

3.    Shape of the feed

This helps piglets to develop fine motoric skills of the mouth. After all, drinking milk or picking up solids and chewing it are two completely different things.

4.    Family food for sow and piglet

Piglets have food neophobia. This means they’re reluctant to try unfamiliar foods. The piglet only eats what the sow has indicated is safe. By providing family food in time while the piglet is still with the sow, the piglet can follow their mother’s example and imitate her behavior. 

What are the key moments when you’re preparing a piglet for the next stage of life?

You can prepare piglets for eating solids during weaning at three times: 1) during gestation 2) when the sow is lactating 3) when the piglet is still together with the sow.

As explained above, the sow transmits odors and flavorings to the piglet in the placenta and later via the milk. ‘Normally, pig-feed experts make a distinction between piglet feed and sow feed,’ explains Hubèrt. ‘The food industry originally has an industrial character, but you have to take the nature of the animal into account. In nature, sows and piglets leave the nest early together to learn how to eat solids and drink water. The piglet recognizes the odors and flavorings and sees that the sow is eating the food. This makes piglets assume it’s safe for them to do so too. Translated to the farrowing pen, it’s important that a gestating and lactating sow receives feed with the same odors and flavorings as the piglet feed. Together with Wageningen University and Vereijken, we’re currently researching how to teach piglets to eat in the farrowing pen in order to prevent the weaning dip.’

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Do you have questions about how to improve feed intake in piglets? Ask your question today via Facebook Messenger or via the comments under the #Justask post! We’ll make sure that the questions that have been submitted in advance are answered on January 28 at 14:30 hrs CET in our 20-minute #Justask livestream.

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