The length of time pigs are offered creep feed has little impact on how much they will eat or weight they will gain.

The durations of creep feed availability did not affect preweaning gain and weaning weights in recent Kansas State University research. However, litters with more prolonged access to creep feed seemed to have a higher proportion of “eaters” compared to litters with access to creep feed for shorter periods.

Previous studies have shown that eaters — pigs accustomed to consuming creep feed — have higher postweaning feed intakes and better growth performance. If creep-feeding behavior can be encouraged and more eaters can be created, postweaning performance can be improved.

KSU researchers concluded that starting pigs on creep feed when they are older might not have a detrimental effect on the amount of feed the pigs eat. Because older pigs seem to accept creep feed more readily than younger pigs, the older pigs may actually consume as much or more creep feed overall, compared to pigs started on creep feed at a younger age.

Research Design

The study was set up to investigate how varying durations of creep feeding would impact the rate at which pigs consume creep feed and their preweaning performance.

Fifty-four sows were divided into two groups, according to parity and farrowing date. Crossfostering within 48 hours of farrowing helped standardize litter weights and litter sizes.

Groups were allotted to three experimental treatments based on how long the pigs would receive creep feed. Creep feeding began at 7, 14 or 18 days of age and continued until pigs were weaned at 20 days of age. This meant the experimental groups received creep feed for 13 days, six days or two days.

The creep diet was offered ad libitum using a rotary creep feeder with a hopper. All creep feed was offered in the form of 2-mm. pellets. A 1% chromium oxide dye was added to the diet so pigs eating the creep feed could be identified.

Sows were allowed free access to lactation feed throughout the study. Water was available to sows and litters at all times via nipple drinkers and bowls.

The duration of creep feeding had no effect on sows' total or daily feed intake during lactation.

Pigs were weighed individually at birth, 7, 14, 18 and 20 days of age. Creep feeders were weighed daily. Fecal swab samples were taken from all pigs at regular intervals. Piglets were categorized as “eaters” when fecal color was green, a result of the chromium oxide dye, at least once on any of the sampling days.

Duration of Creep Feeding

Researchers concluded there was no significant differences in individual or litter weaning weights, total gain and average daily gain among litters fed creep for different durations.

Table 1 illustrates the impact on litter performance, while Table 2 shows average performance for pigs.

The results suggest when creep feed was available for longer durations, weaning weights and weight gains of pigs and litters did not improve. The researchers speculate the relatively small creep feed intake during the first week of creep feeding may be insufficient to generate any differences in growth performance.

From Days 8-14, litters offered creep feed for 13 days had a total intake of 0.36 lb. (Figure 1). From Days 15-20, litters fed creep feed for six days had a higher total creep feed intake than litters fed creep feed for 13 days. Likewise, litters provided with creep feed for six and two days also tended to have higher total creep feed intake than litters fed for 13 days.

Overall, the total creep feed intake of litters fed for 13 and six days were greater than those litters provided creep feed for only two days. There were no differences in total creep feed intake between those fed for 13 and six days.

These results suggest that initiating creep feeding at a later age does not detrimentally affect creep feed intake; instead, older piglets readily accept creep feed and consume the same or more feed than pigs started on creep feed at an earlier age.

Thus, litter creep feed intake seems to be more related to the maturity of pigs rather than the period of introduction to creep feeding.

More Time = More Eaters

Longer duration of creep feeding did seem to result in a larger proportion of eaters (Figure 2).

Litters provided with creep feed for 13 days produced 10% more eaters than litters fed creep feed for either six or two days. There were no differences in the percentage of eaters between litters fed for six and two days.

The higher rate of eaters suggests that the longer availability of creep feed helps stimulate more pigs to consume creep feed and improves the average creep feed consumption of pigs categorized as eaters.

However, a 10% difference in eaters also indicates that the additional seven to 11 days of creep feeding generated only one more eater per litter, in litters of at least 10 pigs. Therefore, the benefit of longer durations of creep feeding should be weighed against the economic value of creating more eaters.

KSU researchers involved in the series of three research reports include: Rommel Sulabo; Mike Tokach; Eric Wiedmann; J.Y. Jacela; Jim Nelssen; Steve Dritz, DVM; Joel DeRouchey; and Robert Goodband, Kansas State University. Contact Sulabo at rcsulabo@ksu.edu. Reports 1 and 2 were published in the Jan. 15, 2008 and Feb. 15, 2008 editions of National Hog Farmer, respectively.

Table 1. Effects of Varying Creep Feeding Durations on Litter Performanceab
Item Creep feeding duration, days
13 6 2
No. of litters 18 18 16
No. of pigs 219 221 197
Avg. litter weight, lb.
Post-fostering 34.0 34.2 33.9
Day 7 60.4 60.8 60.6
Day 14 102.0 100.1 99.8
Day 18 129.0 127.1 125.7
At weaning 141.2 138.1 137.0
Avg. litter gain, lb.
Days 8-14 41.7 39.4 38.9
Days 15-18 27.0 27.0 25.9
Days 19-20 12.2 11.0 11.2
Days 15-20 39.2 38.0 37.2
Days 8-20 80.9 77.3 76.0
Litter avg. daily gain, lb.
Days 8-14 5.96 5.62 5.55
Days 15-18 6.75 6.76 6.45
Days 19-20 6.56 6.33 6.20
Days 15-20 6.14 5.51 5.65
Days 8-20 6.22 5.96 5.85
aTwo groups of sows (total = 52, PIC Line 1050) were blocked according to day of farrowing and parity and allotted to three treatments (13, 6, and 2 day creep feeding durations).
bCreep feed with 1.0% chromium oxide was offered ad libitum from Day 7, 14, and 18 to weaning (d 20).
Table 2. Effects of Varying Creep Feeding Durations on Pig Performanceab
Item Creep feeding duration, days
13 6 2
No. of litters 18 18 16
No. of pigs 219 221 197
Avg. pig weight, lb.
Post-fostering 3.05 3.04 3.04
Day 7 5.40 5.40 5.40
Day 14 9.13 8.89 8.94
Day 18 11.55 11.29 11.24
At weaning 12.66 12.26 12.26
Avg. pig gain, lb.
Days 8-14 3.73 3.49 3.54
Days 15-18 2.42 2.39 2.30
Days 19-20 1.11 0.97 1.02
Days 15-20 3.53 3.37 3.32
Days 8-20 7.26 6.86 6.86
Pig avg. daily gain, lb.
Days 8-14 0.53 0.50 0.51
Days 15-18 0.61 0.60 0.57
Days 19-20 0.56 0.49 0.51
Days 15-20 0.59 0.56 0.55
Days 8-20 0.56 0.53 0.523
aTwo groups of sows (total = 52, PIC Line 1050) were blocked according to day of farrowing and parity and allotted to three treatments (13, 6, and 2 day creep feeding durations).
bCreep feed with 1.0% chromium oxide was offered ad libitum from Day 7, 14, and 18 to weaning (day 20).