Research Shows Dramatically Improvment in Wean to Finish Performance from Increased Weaning Age

Research conducted at Kansas State University shows swine producers can dramatically increase wean to finish pig performance by increasing the length of time baby pigs spend with the sow, writes Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 12 February 2007
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In an effort to identify the most important factor for improved performance in modern multi-site swine production systems, scientists at Kansas State University conducted two trials looking at the impact of weaning age on wean to finish pig performance.

The studies examined weaning ages from 12 to 21 days of age.

Kansas State University swine specialist Dr. Steve Dritz says, at the time the studies were initiated, a very common weaning age was 16 to 17 days, driven by productivity from the sow farm.

Dr. Steve Dritz-Kansas State University

One of the major advantages from earlier weaning age is the thought that it decreases the transfer of pathogens from the mother sow to the offspring so, for some pathogens, there's some thought that earlier weaning ages can help control certain diseases in a manner and that's kind of where three site production evolved from some of the really early weaning age procedures developed out of England to eliminate pathogens from pigs because of the protective immunity from the mother before they got exposed to those diseases.

The advantages of later weaning are having a bigger pig are a lot easier to manage from that standpoint and then, based on our research, we've shown significant improvements in growth rate and mortality rates from the later weaning ages that we examined in our study.

Dr. Dritz says throughout the two studies a weaning age of 21 days was best and there have since been follow-up studies that suggest even higher weaning ages, 23 or 24 days of age, may actually be the optimum.

He notes, over the last few years, weaning age is beginning to move up and we're starting to see farms with 18 and 19 day weaning ages.

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