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Feeding pigs

How to Make Pigs Gain Weight Fast

Early start and preventive strategies for profitable pig production

Good gut health is the best growth promoter.
- Franz Waxenecker, Managing Director of BIOMIN

A healthy digestive tract is a prerequisite for overall animal health and performance including quick weight gain. Good digestion not only affects the absorption and utilization of nutrients, but also has a considerable influence on the animal’s immune system. With poor digestion, excessive amounts of nutrients are available in the digestive tract for pathogenic bacteria to utilize for growth, which may result in enteric imbalances.

Weaning stage crucial

Weaning is considered as one of the most critical periods in pig management. Nowadays, weaning age on commercial farms is in the range of 3 to 4 weeks old, whereas pigs are naturally weaned at an age of 14 to 17 weeks (Jensen, 1986). 

At weaning, pigs are confronted by multiple changes such as:

  • Separation from the sow to a new environment
  • Relocation with new penmates
  • Abrupt change of diet from liquid sow milk to solid feed

Post-weaning anorexia or inadequate feed intake after weaning results in insufficient dietary nutrient utilization and local inflammation (Pluske et al., 1997). Those various stressors result in low feed intake, body weight loss, and a high incidence of diarrhea, which consequently can lead to mortality. 

As a result, weaning causes profound changes in the gastrointestinal tract of pigs. Intestinal disorders after weaning are caused by alterations in intestinal architecture and function and are mostly evidenced by villus atrophy, crypt hyperplasia, and increased in intestinal permeability (Spreeuwenberg et al., 2001). Lastly, disruption in the intestinal microbiota is possibly linked to diarrhea and pathogenic infections after weaning (Lallès et al., 2007; Gresse et al., 2017).

The maintenance of normal intestinal architecture is a key to increasing body weight gain at the early phase of pig production. The well-regulated integrity of the small intestine is important to improve nutrient digestion and absorption. Pigs that are lighter during the nursery phase require more days to reach market weight; therefore, strategies that increase growth during post-weaning period may have a large impact on overall pig performance. 

Types of pig weight gain supplements 

Here are some of the kinds of feed additives or supplements commonly added to pigs’ diets to improve intestinal health in order to achieve improved feed efficiency or weight gain: 

References 

Gresse, R., F. Chaucheyras-Durand, M. A. Fleury, T. Van de Wiele, E. Forano, and S. Blanquet-Diot. 2017. Gut Microbiota Dysbiosis in Postweaning Piglets: Understanding the Keys to Health. Trends Microbiol. 25:851–873. doi:10.1016/j.tim.2017.05.004.

Jensen, P. 1986. Observations on the maternal behaviour of free-ranging domestic pigs. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 16:131-142.

Lallès, J. P., P. Bosi, H. Smidt, and C. R. Stokes. 2007. Nutritional management of gut health in pigs around weaning. Proc. Nutr. Soc. 66:260-268. 

Pluske, J. R., D. J. Hampson, and I. H. Williams. 1997. Factors influencing the structure and function of the small intestine in the weaned pig: a review. Livest. Prod. Sci. 51:215-236. 

Spreeuwenberg, M. A. M., J. M. A. J. Verdonk, H. R. Gaskins, and M. Verstegen. 2001. Small Intestine Epithelial Barrier Function Is Compromised in Pigs with Low Feed Intake at Weaning. 131:1520-1527