Feeding early weaned pigs a liquid diet improved performance in both the short- and the long-term, according to a recent study at North Carolina State University (NCSU).
In the experiment, 240 pigs weaned at 11 days weighed an average of 8.66 lb. Half the pigs were placed in a conventional nursery, the other half in a specialized, commercial nursery.
Each group received either a pelleted diet or a liquid milk replacer diet formulated exactly the same in ingredient and nutrient composition, says NCSU assistant professor Eric van Heutgen.
The two groups were fed the different diets for 14 days postweaning. After that, both groups were placed on pelleted feed for three weeks in the nursery. A meal diet was fed to all pigs the last two weeks in the nursery and during the grow-finish period.
Feeding the liquid milk replacer diet for 14 days immediately after weaning improved daily gain by 54% over the group fed the pelleted diet, says van Heutgen. Feed intake improved 26% and feed efficiency 23%.
For the entire growing period, daily gain and feed intake improved 4% when pigs had been fed liquid diets for two weeks in the nursery. Those pigs also reached market weight of 240 lb. an average of four days sooner than the pellet-fed animals.
Feeding liquid diets selectively to pigs having lighter weaning weights could potentially reduce variation in market weights and reduce days to market, says van Heutgen.