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Effects of Pellet Diameter during and after Lactation on Feed Intake of Piglets

24 September 2014

A new Dutch study revels that young piglets prefer pellets 10 or 12mm in diameter to the smaller pellets commonly used in commercial practice.

Effects of two pellet diameters for piglets pre- and post-weaning on feed intake, bodyweight and feed-related behaviour were studied in three experiments, reported Henry van den Brand of Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

In Journal of Animal Science, van den Brand and co-authors at Wageningen University and Denkavit explain that in Experiment 1, 19 litters were provided with pellets of 2 and 12mm in diameter in a choice-feeding setup from day 4 of lactation onward. From days 4 to 18, piglets preferred the 12-mm diameter pellet over the 2-mm diameter pellet (519 versus 168g per pen; P<0.001).

In Experiment 2, 39 litters were provided with creep feed of either 2- or 10-mm diameter pellets. Feed intake from days 3 to 17 was higher in litters provided the 10-mm diameter pellet than the 2-mm diameter pellet (1,752 versus 1,101g per pen; P<0.001).

Piglet bodyweight at weaning did not differ between treatments.

Treatment × day of lactation interactions were found for time spent eating, interest in eating, and time spent suckling. Time spent eating and interest in eating increased with time. This increase was lower in the litters provided with the 10-mm diameter pellet. Time spent suckling remained the same in litters provided with 2-mm diameter pellets but decreased in time in litters provided the 10-mm diameter pellets.

Experiment 3 was set up as a 2×2 factorial design with pellet diameter both pre- and post-weaning as factors. During lactation, 18 litters were provided creep feed of either 2 or 12mm in pellet diameter. At weaning, each litter was split into two comparable half litters and each half litter was provided with feed of 2 or 12mm in diameter.

Feed intake was higher in the 12-mm diameter pellet litters than in the 2-mm ones from days 4 to 11 of lactation (P<0.01). Pellet diameter provided after weaning did not affect bodyweight gain or feed intake.

Piglets provided the 12-mm diameter pellet before weaning, however, had a higher bodyweight gain (2,060 versus 2,606g per pig; P=0.003) and feed intake (2,772 versus 3,173g per pig; P=0.04) and a lower feed conversion ratio (P=0.03) between days 0 and 10 after weaning than piglets provided the 2-mm diameter pellet before weaning.

Post-weaning pellet diameter had no effect on bodyweight gain or feed intake.

Behaviour was not affected by pellet diameter pre- and post-weaning.

The researchers concluded that young piglets (up to 18 days of age) prefer pellets with a large diameter to very small pellets currently used in commercial practice.

Feed intake and bodyweight gain after weaning were higher in piglets provided with a large pellet diameter during lactation, possibly due to the higher creep feed intake in early lactation, concluded van den Brand and co-authors.


van den Brand H., D. Wamsteeker, M. Oostindjer, L.C.M. van Enckevort, A.F.B. van der Poel, B. Kemp and J.E. Bolhuis. 2014. Effects of pellet diameter during and after lactation on feed intake of piglets pre- and postweaning. J. Anim Sci. 92:4145-4153. doi: 10.2527/jas.2014-7408

Further Reading

You can view the full report (fee payable) by clicking here.

September 2014

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