MANAGEMENT                                        PIH-111


          Management and Nutrition of the Newly Weaned Pig

Frank Aherne, University of Alberta
Maynard G. Hogberg, Michigan State University
E. T. Kornegay, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Gerald C. Shurson, University of Minnesota

Michael and Susan Brocksmith, Vincennes, Indiana
Gilbert R. Hollis, University of Illinois
James E. Pettigrew, University of Minnesota

     In general, earlier weaning can  result  in  increasing  the
number  of pigs weaned per sow per year and may allow for heavier
pigs at 8 weeks  of  age.  Because  of  this  potential  and  our
increased knowledge of the nutritional and environmental needs of
the young pig, weaning between 2 and  4  weeks  of  age  has  now
become the normal practice in many herds, with most herds weaning
at about 24 days of age.

     Successful weaning starts before weaning with:  1.  A  sound
breeding  and  feeding  program  with the gestating sow to ensure
large, healthy pigs at birth.  There is a highly  positive  rela-
tionship between birth weight and weight at weaning. 2. Good baby
pig and sow management  during  lactation  to  ensure  heavy  and
healthy pigs at weaning.

Creep Feeding

     The percentage of the suckling pig's daily nutrient require-
ments  coming  from  sow milk or creep feed changes with stage of
lactation. At 3 weeks,  only  about  5%  of  the  pig's  nutrient
requirements  are  being  met  by creep feed intake, whereas at 5
weeks of age, creep  feed  may  supply  one-third  of  the  pig's
nutrient requirements.

     Even though there doesn't appear to be an advantage in creep
feeding  pigs  weaned  at  3  weeks, there may be an advantage in
offering a creep feed to those pigs weaned later than 3 weeks  of
age starting as early as 10 days of age.

     The creep feed is intended to  allow  the  pig  to  maintain
optimum  growth rate after the sow's milk yield starts to decline
at 3 to 4 weeks after farrowing. For pigs weaned after 21 days of
age,  creep  feed  also  may stimulate earlier development of the
digestive system, induce digestive enzyme  secretions,  stimulate
hydrochloric  acid  (HCl)  secretion  in  the stomach and in many
other ways prepare the pig for weaning to a  dry,  cereal  grain,
vegetable  protein-based diet. There is some evidence that use of
a palatable, digestible creep feed with fast growing pigs  weaned
at  24  to  28  days  of age will significantly improve weight at
weaning and improve feed intake and growth rate in the first  two
weeks after weaning.

     If a creep feeding program is to be successful, feed  should
be  fresh (changed frequently) and the diet must be highly diges-
tible and palatable. Because most of  the  suckling  pig's  amino
acid  requirements  are met by milk proteins, a creep feed may be
formulated to contain only 15% to 16% protein.  Ingredients  com-
monly  used to meet these requirements are dried whey, dried skim
milk, fish meal and dehulled rolled oats.

     Before weaning, a suckling pig  will  consume  approximately
0.55  lb  of  milk  dry matter per day, allowing a growth rate of
0.70 lb per day. After weaning, feed intake can fall to about 0.2
lb  per  day  and then increase by about 0.1 lb per day, but will
generally not reach the preweaning level of nutrient intake until
8 to 10 days after weaning.

Post Weaning

     The performance of the pig after weaning  is  determined  by
age  and weight at weaning, genetic potential for growth, quality
of management and environment, nutritional  program  and  disease
status.  Management  and  environment are more often the limiting
factors to producing good feeder  pigs  than  are  nutrition  and
genetics. Weaning at any age is stressful for young pigs, but the
younger and lighter the pig is at weaning, the  higher  its  tem-
perature  requirement, the lower the ability to digest grains and
vegetable proteins, the lower its appetite,  and  the  lower  its
resistance to disease.

Age and Weight at Weaning

     A successful weaning program depends on choosing an  age  at
weaning  that  suits  the  facilities,  nutritional  program  and
management skills of the producer. In general,  the  heavier  the
pig  at weaning, the more developed its digestive and immune sys-
tem, the better it is able to cope with the stresses  of  weaning
and  the  better its post-weaning growth rate. With good housing,
feeding and management, pigs weaned at about 14  lb  can  average
0.8  to 1.2 lb of gain per day from weaning to eight weeks of age
with a feed conversion of 1.4 to 2.0  (Table  1).  For  the  best
herds, a target of 70 lb pigs at 60 days of age is attainable.

Table 1. Performance targets for weaned pigs from  14  to  45  lb
|                                     Good      Better     Best |
|   Average daily gain, lb            0.75       1.0       1.20 |
|   Average daily feed intake, lb     1.55       1.70      1.70 |
|   Feed conversion                   2.00       1.70      1.40 |
|   Mortality, %                      2.50       1.50      0.50 |


     After weaning, there is a sudden change in  the  pig's  diet
from  16  regular  meals a day of a very palatable, highly nutri-
tious and digestible milk diet to a dry feed based on less diges-
tible  and  less  palatable ingredients.  When the pig is weaned,
its ability to digest solid food and resist  digestive  upset  is
greatly reduced.  The limited capacity of the digestive system of
the pig is even further reduced by damage caused to the gut  wall
by  the stress of weaning. The result is a period of reduced feed
intake after weaning, the extent and duration of which depends on
the  palatability  and  digestibility of the feed, the management
system of weaning and the weight of the pig.

     In some circumstances, the period of low feed intake is fol-
lowed  by consumption of large quantities of feed which may over-
load the digestive system and result in outbreaks of diarrhea. To
avoid or minimize postweaning diarrhea, it is sometimes suggested
that feed intake be restricted for  a  few  days  after  weaning.
Although restricted feeding may reduce the incidence and severity
of postweaning diarrhea and gut edema,  it  also  reduces  growth
rate  of  the pigs so that in general the performance of pigs fed
free-choice is superior.  Therefore, the aim should be to provide
an environment and a management system along with a diet that can
be fed free-choice without causing problems of diarrhea and  that
will minimize the postweaning growth lag.

     The nutrient requirements of the weaned pig  depend  on  its
weight  at  weaning  and  its  subsequent level of performance. A
guide to the nutrient allowances recommended  for  pigs  of  dif-
ferent  weights and specific targeted performance levels is shown
in Table 2.

Table 2. Nutrient allowances*
|                                         Weight, lb            |
|    Item                       10 to 25 lb        25 to 45 lb  |
|    Weight gain, lb/day             0.55               1.0     |
|    Feed conversion                 1.80               2.11    |
|    Feed intake/day, lb             1.00               2.10    |
|    Kcal ME/lb                   1500               1500       |
|    Protein, %                     20.00              18.00    |
|    Lysine, %                       1.25               1.00    |
|    Calcium, %                      0.85               0.75    |
|    Phosphorus, %                   0.70               0.65    |
*Adapted from NRC (1988)

     The energy level recommended in Table 2 will maximize growth
rate, but feed efficiency may improve with increases in energy up
to 1650 kcal ME/lb. These diets supply about 5.5 and 4.5 grams of
lysine per pound of diet or 3.8 and 3.0 grams of lysine per 1,000
calories, respectively. Synthetic lysine supplementation  can  be
used to reduce diet protein concentration by about 2% while main-
taining  lysine  levels.  Maintaining  methionine  plus  cystine,
threonine  and tryptophan at 55%, 65% and 18% respectively of the
lysine level to produce an ideal protein ratio is recommended.

Starter Diet Composition

     Digestibility of the postweaning diet is the key  factor  in
improving  feed  intake and achieving higher growth rates without
increasing the incidence of diarrhea. Therefore, the  ingredients
used in the starter diet must be suited to the digestive capacity
of the pig. Diets based on milk products, fish meal, blood  prod-
ucts  and  cooked  cereals  are  most  suitable for supplying the
nutrient  requirements  of  the  early  weaned  pig,  but   these
ingredients  also are expensive. Thus, the nutrition of the newly
weaned pig is usually a matter of  compromise  between  economics
and  the  needs  of  the pig. However, the pig's digestive system
changes quickly, as  do  its  nutrient  requirements  (Table  2).
Therefore,  with early weaning, a two or three phase starter diet
sequence can be used to reduce cost and improve pig  performance.
An example of a phase feeding program is shown in Table 3. By the
time the pig weighs 25 lb, it can be  fed  a  traditional  grain-
soybean meal starter diet.

Nutrient Sources

     Diets containing dried whey are superior  to  simple  grain-
soybean  diets  for  pigs of less than 15 lb at weaning.  Perfor-
mance is optimized when whey is included at 15%  to  20%  of  the
diet  and  the  largest  response  from adding whey is during the
first 10 to 14 days after weaning.  Pig performance  is  superior
when  an edible grade whey rather than a feed grade whey is used.
Reduction in feed grade whey quality appears to be due to  exces-
sive  drying  temperatures  and  high ash and salt content. A 25%
lower level of available lysine has been shown  in  roller  dried
compared  with spray dried whey.  It appears that the response to
whey is both a lactose and a protein effect.   Therefore,  it  is
recommended that weaned pigs be fed an edible grade, high-lactose

Table 3. Key elements of a three phase starter program.*
|                   Phase 1        Phase 2          Phase 3     |
| Time              10 days prior  day 7 to day 14  day 14 after|
|                   to weaning &   after weaning    weaning to  |
|                   7 days after                    45 lb       |
|                   weaning                                     |
| Weight            up to 15 lb    15 to 25 lb      25 to 45 lb |
|                                                               |
| Protein, %        24             20               18          |
| Lysine, %         1.40           1.25             1.10        |
| Metabolizable                                                 |
|  energy,                                                      |
|  kcal/lb          1550           1500             1475        |
| Fat, added, %     3              3                4           |
| Whey, %           20             10               --          |
| Skim Milk, %      15             --               --          |
| Fish meal,%       4              2                --          |
| Copper sulfate**  +              +                +           |
| Antibiotic        +              +                +           |
| Physical form     1/8 in         1/8 in           meal        |
|                   pellets        pellets                      |
*Based on corn, wheat, barley, oat groats, grain sorghum.
**Copper levels beyond the nutritional requirements.

     Because whey is very  expensive  and  soybean  meal  is  not
well-digested  by  starter  pigs,  there  has  been  considerable
interest in using processed soybean protein products such as  soy
protein  concentrate,  soy flour and isolated soy protein.  These
products, although generally  too  expensive  to  use,  are  more
easily digested by the young pig and produce less intestinal dam-
age than soybean meal. These  products  improve  pig  performance
compared with soybean meal in the first 14 days after weaning but
not thereafter.

     Spray-dried porcine plasma (SDPP),  a  by-product  of  blood
obtained  from  pork slaughter plants, contains about 68% protein
and 6% lysine.  Spray-dried porcine plasma, up to a maximum level
of  8%  to  10%,  with  or without the addition of lactose to the
diet, can effectively replace some or all of the dried skim  milk
in  the diet of starter pigs. Supplemental methionine and lactose
may be needed when SDPP is added to the diet.


     The ability of the young  pig  to  efficiently  utilize  fat
increases with age.  Although fat supplementation does not signi-
ficantly improve pig performance during  the  first  one  or  two
weeks  after weaning, it does reduce fat loss during that period.
For the first two weeks after weaning, it is recommended that the
level  of  supplemented  fat should be limited to 2% to 3% of the
diet. Soybean oil, coconut oil, corn oil, peanut oil, canola oil,
or  a  mixture  of these oils are relatively well-utilized by the
weaned pig. Fat is added to the diet as an aid to  the  pelleting

     The digestibility of fats or oils improves from about 69% in
the  first week after weaning to 88% by four weeks after weaning.
By 3 to 4 weeks after weaning, the level of fat in the  diet  can
be  increased  to 4% to 5%, and for that age pig, fat will result
in improved growth rate and feed efficiency. At that  age,  there
is  no  significant  difference  in  the digestibility of fats or

     The response to fat supplementation by the newly weaned  pig
is  greater  when  the  protein  and  lysine level of the diet is
increased to maintain a constant energy-protein ratio.

Feed Additives

     The development of low pH (about 4)  in  the  pig's  stomach
will  help  to ensure efficient digestion of the feed and help in
controlling the proliferation of  potentially  harmful  bacteria.
The  ability  to  secrete hydrochloric acid in the stomach is not
well-developed in the 3 to 4 week  old  pig.  It  is,  therefore,
recommended  that  ingredients with a high acid-binding capacity,
such as ground limestone, be kept to a desirable minimum. A level
of  0.85% to 0.90% calcium in the starter diet should be adequate
for weanling pigs. The addition of 1% to 2% organic  acids,  such
as  fumaric, lactic, citric or propionic acid, may result in a 4%
to 5% improvement in feed efficiency, but they may not be econom-
ical.  The  response  to the addition of organic acids is greater
with grain-soybean meal based diets than with dried whey  supple-
mented  diets  and  during  the first two weeks after weaning. In
most cases, the addition of organic acids is not  cost  effective
because of the high cost of the acids.

     Addition of antibiotics to the starter diet  will  generally
improve  pig  growth  rate  by 10% to 20% and increase feed effi-
ciency by 5% to 10%.  Similar but  slightly  lower  responses  in
growth  and  feed efficiency have been obtained with the addition
of copper sulfate to the diet. A  combination  of  an  antibiotic
plus  copper sulfate at 125 ppm gives better pig performance than
either alone.

     Addition of probiotics to the starter diet generally has not
produced  an  improvement  in pig performance. Supplementation of
starter diets with digestive enzymes such  as  amylase,  sucrase,
beta  glucanase, protease, lipase or cellulase also does not con-
sistently improve the performance of weaned pigs.

     Recent research involving a single B vitamin complex  injec-
tion  has  shown performance benefits for pigs weaned at 17 to 28
days.  However, addition to the  diet  of  folic  acid,  thiamin,
biotin  or  ascorbic  acid  (Vit C) in general does not result in
improved pig performance when pigs are weaned at 17 to 28 days of

     Flavors, sweeteners and aroma enhancers are used  widely  in
commercial  starter diets. When pigs have a choice, they will eat
more of a diet containing feed flavors than an  unflavored  diet.
However,  although  these additives may help to improve intake in
some circumstances, the benefits in most cases are small.

Medicated Early Weaning (MEW)

     Medicated early weaning is a method of reducing the exposure
of  pigs to a wide spectrum of pathogens with the aim of reducing
the incidence of diseases in pigs. This system is  based  on  the
principle  that  in  a  closed,  well-managed  herd,  the balance
between immunity and infection tends to reach  a  stable  equili-
brium.  The  MEW  technique  involves (1) medicating the sow diet
with broad spectrum antibiotics before farrowing and until  wean-
ing, and (2) removing pigs at an early age (10 days or less) from
the sow and placing them at a new location, and  (3)  giving  the
litter  appropriate  medication (broad spectrum antibiotics) from
birth until five days after weaning.

     MEW has been found to be effective in eliminating the organ-
isms  responsible  for enzootic pneumonia, swine dysentery, pseu-
dorabies and one of the organisms responsible for atrophic  rhin-
itis (Bordetella bronchiseptica) and other organisms. Postweaning
mortality is increased (ranging up to 12% to 25%) and  there  are
additional  costs due to off-site sow facilities and extra labor.
However, substantial beneficial effects have been reported in the
finishing  performance of MEW pigs: 14% increase in average daily
gain and 9% improvement in feed efficiency.

     Producers interested in MEW should consult with their  swine
veterinary   practitioner  and  Extension  swine  specialist  for
appropriate procedures and to determine if MEW is a viable  prac-
tice for their operation.


     The common environmental stresses experienced by the pig  at
weaning are chilling, drafts, temperature fluctuations, poor san-
itation, and inadequate housing and penning  conditions  such  as
feeder  space, floor type, pen size, number of water nipples, and
their location and flow rate.

     Chilling. The reduced feed intake and loss of body fat after
weaning  make  the  newly  weaned pig very sensitive to cold. The
recommended environmental temperatures for pigs weaned at 3 to  5
weeks  of  age  are shown in Table 4. The younger and smaller the
pig, the higher and more stable the temperature  required.  Daily
variations  of  more than 4o F during the first week after weaning
can cause outbreaks of diarrhea and poor performance.  Room  tem-
perature  should  be read at pig level because temperature at eye
level can be 9o F higher than at ground  level.  Thermostats  also
should  be  hung  at  a low level and the sensory coils should be
kept free of dust. Temperatures in excess of those shown in Table
4  will  cause  a  restriction of feed intake. Research has shown
that night time temperature in the nursery can be  lowered  about
10o F after the first or second week after weaning without affect-
ing the performance of the pigs.

Table 4. Temperature requirements of weaned pigs.
|      Pig weight, lb                Initial temperature, o F   |
|         8 to 12                              85               |
|         12 to 17                             80               |
|         17 to 27                             76               |
|         27 to 40                             70               |

     Drafts. Air movement at the level of the pig should be  kept
as  low as possible. A scarcely noticeable air speed will chill a
pig as much as a drop in temperature of 5o F. On  slatted  floors,
up-drafts  are  very common and an overlay should be used. It has
been shown that pigs in a draft-free environment grow  6%  faster
on  26% less feed than do pigs exposed to drafts. The use of bed-
ding, such as straw, can help the pig create a microclimate  that
can reduce heat loss.  However, the use of bedding has been aban-
doned by most producers because of labor costs and  incompatibil-
ity with many manure management systems. Wet concrete floors also
can increase chilling of the young pig and can be equivalent to a
drop  in  temperature of 5o F to 10o F. Huddling with penmates also
reduces heat loss, but excessive huddling should be taken  as  an
indication of an unsatisfactory pig environment.

     Sanitation. The young  pig's  immunity  to  disease  is  not
well-developed  until  it is 5 to 6 weeks of age. Before weaning,
the pig is provided with immunoglobulin A (IgA) in the milk which
helps it to combat enteric diseases such as diarrhea. After wean-
ing, the pig does not have this protection; therefore, it is very
important  that  pigs are moved to a clean, dry, warm environment
and fed a palatable, digestible diet fortified with an  appropri-
ate  antibiotic.  Use  of an all-in, all-out system of management
improves pig performance and reduces the incidence  and  severity
of scours.

     Stockmanship. There is some evidence  that  keeping  litters
intact  after weaning reduces the incidence of diarrhea, improves
performance  and  reduces  postweaning  mortality.   The  general
recommendation is for 3 sq ft per pig for pigs from weaning to 45
lb on solid floors and 2 sq ft per pig on slatted floors. If pigs
are crowded, growth rate and feed intake will be reduced. Optimum
group size appears to be about 12 to 16 pigs per pen. With larger
group size, growth rate tends to decline and variation within the
pen increases. Research has shown little if any difference in the
performance  of  pigs  raised  in single, double or triple decks.
For best weaning pig performance, select flooring that has excel-
lent  cleaning  qualities, provides a comfortable surface for pig
movement and sleeping, and minimizes the heat loss.  Even  though
there are growth performance differences among floor types, other
more subjective features of flooring materials such  as  durabil-
ity,  ease of cleaning and pig comfort, as well as cost should be

     Feeding System. No advantage in feed intake or  pig  perfor-
mance  has been shown from floor feeding pigs for the first three
days after weaning, but feed wastage will be  much  greater  with
floor  feeding.  Feed wastage can amount to 8% to 15% of the feed
from poorly designed and unadjusted self-feeders. Feed wastage is
less  from  feeders  with  feeder  holes,  easily adjustable feed
plates and lips that prevent feed from flowing out of  the  front
or sides. Use of single-space, wet-dry feeders is not recommended
for newly weaned pigs because the pigs play with the  water  nip-
ples  in the feeders and flood the trough, resulting in feed was-
tage and reduced pig performance for the first week  after  wean-

     Nipple drinkers are the preferred watering system for weaned
pigs.  They do lead to increased water waste, but they are easier
to keep clean. The orifice should be at least 3 mm and  the  flow
rate should be one cup per minute for pigs 10 lb to 25 lb and two
cups per minute for pigs 25 lb to 50 lb.  It  is  suggested  that
there be at least one nipple drinker for each 6 to 8 pigs, or one
bowl for each 12 pigs. The drinker height  should  be  adjustable
and  should be set 4 inches to 6 inches above the pigs back at an
angle of about 45 degrees.

o Feed a well-balanced, high-energy, palatable diet.
o Keep feed fresh and clean.
o Temperature at pig level should be 85o F for pigs 8 to
   12 lb and 80o F for pigs 12 to 17 lb.
o Provide clean, dry, disinfected pens.
o Allow one water nipple for every 6 to 8 pigs.
o Use an all-in, all-out system.
o Provide draft-free environment and use overlays on
   slatted floors.
o Number of pigs per pen should be 16 or less.
o Water flow rates should be checked and nipple
   height adjusted regularly.
o Adjust pen-mates within a weight range of 2 lb to 3 lb.
o Provide adequate floor space per pig.

     Reference to products is not intended to be  an  endorsement
to  the  exclusion  of others which may be similar. Persons using
such products assume responsibility for their use  in  accordance
with current directions of the manufacturer.

REV 12/92 (7M)


Cooperative Extension Work in  Agriculture  and  Home  Economics,
State  of Indiana, Purdue University and U.S. Department of Agri-
culture Cooperating. H.A. Wadsworth,  Director,  West  Lafayette,
IN. Issued in furtherance of the Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914.
It is the policy of the Cooperative Extension Service  of  Purdue
University  that  all  persons  shall  have equal opportunity and
             access to our programs and facilities.