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Effects of an Altered Suckling Method on Piglet Performance During Late Lactation and the Nursery Period

24 January 2014

Researchers from Kansas State University reported to the 2013 Swine Industry Day that piglets reared according to a new suckling method performed as well as the controls in the nursery and there was less variation in weight. The method involved weaning heavier piglets of two litters at 18 days of age, pooling the remaining lighter ones onto both sows until weaning at 25 days of age.

The effects of an altered suckling method (ALT) on nursery pig performance were studied in a 14-day experiment encompassing late lactation and the early nursery period, reported K.M. Gourley and co-authors.

A total of 611 pigs (PIC 327 × 1050) nursing 54 sows were used in two farrowing groups.

Sows were allotted to treatments on day 18 of lactation when all but the five lightest-weight pigs from each ALT litter were split-weaned (SW) and moved to the nursery. The lightweight pigs in the ALT litters were paired within parity group such that two litters were combined. These combined litters rotationally suckled (RS) each sow of the pair for 12 hours per day from day 18 until weaning on day 25. Pigs in control litters were weaned on day 21.

At weaning, pigs were randomly assigned to pens (seven pigs per pen). All weaned pigs received a common feed budget of 4 lb of Phase 1 followed by a Phase 2 diet. Pigs were weighed on days 18, 21, 25, 28 and 32 of age. Differences in weight gain, variation in growth within litter, and the association between piglet weight category on day 18 and treatment effects were evaluated.

An interaction was detected (P<0.01) for pig weights and weight gain from days 18 to 32 because the RS pigs gained 15 per cent more than lightweight controls, whereas SW pigs were 15 per cent lighter than heavyweight controls on day 32.

Overall variation - as measured by the changes in coefficient of variation (CV) and standard deviation (SD) - was 50 per cent less (P<0.01) within ALT litters compared with controls.

When pig weight groups were compared, the ALT treatment benefited (P<0.001) growth of light pigs (under 10 lb) but decreased (P<0.01) the weight gain of heavy pigs (more than 14 lb).

Overall, Gourley and co-authors concluded, performance was similar between ALT and control pigs but the apparent improvement in weight variation observed within ALT litters warrants additional investigation.


Gourley K.M., H.L. Frobose, M.D. Tokach, J.M. DeRouchey, S.S. Dritz, R.D. Goodband, J.L. Nelssen and D.L. Davis. 2013. Effects of an altered suckling method on piglet performance during late lactation and the nursery period. Proceedings of 2013 Kansas Swine Day, p27-34.

Further Reading

You can view the full paper by clicking here.
Read other papers presented at the 2013 Kansas Swine Day by clicking here.

January 2014

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