Benefits of Giving Weaners a Flying Start

UK - The escalation in feed prices last autumn forced Northern Ireland pig producer Gary Anderson to take a hard look at all aspects of herd health.
calendar icon 21 November 2008
clock icon 3 minute read

With a 400-sow herd at Stewartstown, near Cookstown, rearing all the progeny to baconers, his focus was on improving early piglet health to give weaners a better start.

He was concerned that weaners were not growing away as they should, impairing later performance, and decided to work with his local veterinary practitioner John Grant to put into place a new herd health regime.

“Gary recognised that he needed to start right to finish right,” says Mr Grant, of Parklands Veterinary Clinic, Cookstown, County Tyrone.

A new vaccination programme was introduced, protecting sows and piglets against viral and mycoplasmal infection that improved the overall health status, but there remained on-going respiratory problems with the weaners.

Mr Grant suggested a trial which was undertaken over a period of eight weeks with all piglets given the antibiotic Draxxin, licensed for the treatment and prevention of swine respiratory disease, when they were weaned (at 26 to 27 days of age). Gary Anderson recorded scrupulously the weight gain of the weaners.

The first difference he noticed was an immediate improvement in feed intake. “It was up by 50 percent in the first couple of days, and probably 10 to 20 per cent after that,” he comments.

Daily growth rate increased from an average of 315 grams/day during the previous six weeks to 356 grams/day. This led him to adopt the same approach for all weaners and the improvement was maintained, with growth in the post weaning stage averaging out at 367 grams/day.

The pigs are finished at around 24 weeks at just over 80kg liveweight, processed by Grampian Country Foods for bacon.

The increase in growth rate post-weaning has been carried through to the second stage where it is running at around 620 grams/day. “The pigs are coming through much more evenly,” says Mr Anderson. “This shows just how important it is to give the pigs a good start — if not, we’ll lose at least one weeks’ growth at the end.”

His vet comments: “The use of Draxxin has certainly helped against non-specific mycoplasmal / bacterial infection, enabling the pigs to manage better the challenge from viral infections such as PMWS.”

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