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High specification starter diets improve the performance of low birth weight pigs to 10 weeks of age

Lookup NU author(s): Sadie Douglas, Emerita Professor Sandra Edwards, Professor Ilias Kyriazakis


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Piglets born with low birth weights (LBiW) are likely to be lighter at weaning. Starter regimes tailored for pigs of average BW therefore may not be optimal for LBiW nursery performance. The objective was to determine if LBiW pigs benefit from a high specification starter regime and the provision of extra feed (additional allowance of last phase diet of the starter regime) in comparison to a standard commercial regime. Additionally, the effect of starter regime on performance of normal birth weight (NBiW) pigs at weaning was determined and compared to that of LBiW pigs. Finally, the cost effectiveness of the treatments was determined. The experiment was therefore an incomplete 2 x 2 x 2 factorial design, as the provision of extra feed was given only to LBiW pigs (n = 6 replicates per treatment; 5 pigs per replicate). Treatments comprised birth weight (LBiW or NBiW), starter regime (high specification [HS] or standard starter [SS]), and extra feed 3 quantity (yes [YF] or no [NF], for LBiW pigs only; feed 3 corresponded to the last phase diet of the starter regime). At weaning (d 28), pigs were randomly assigned within each birth weight category to treatment groups. Nutritional treatments were fed ad libitum on a kilogram/head basis for approximately 3 wk followed by a common weaner diet fed ad libitum until d 70. Starter regime (P = 0.019), feed 3 amount (P = 0.010), and their interaction (P = 0.029) had an effect on ADG of LBiW pigs from d 28 to 49, with pigs on HS followed by YF (HY) performing best. An improvement in feed conversion ratio (FCR) was noted between d 28 and 49 for pigs fed the additional feed 3 (P = 0.030); between d 49 and 70, the only residual effect seen was of starter regime (P = 0.017) on ADG. In contrast, there was no significant effect of starter regime from d 28 to 70 on ADG, ADFI, or FCR of NBiW pigs. By d 49 and 70, LBiW pigs on regime HY weighed the same as NBiW pigs (d 70 BW; 30.0 vs. 30.6 kg; P = 0.413), with similar growth rates from d 28 to 70 (0.570 vs. 0.533 kg/d; P = 0.137). Despite highest feed cost for regime HY at US$12.30 per pig, its margin over feed was greatest ($23.40). Conversely, regime SS gave the best margin over feed for NBiW pigs at $22.70 per pig. In conclusion, a postweaning feeding regime formulated for LBiW pigs improved the ADG and FCR to the end of the nursery phase enabling them to achieve the same weight as NBiW. Targeting the provision of the high quality expensive regime only to light pigs will ensure maximum growth and increased profitability.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Douglas SL, Wellock I, Edwards SA, Kyriazakis I

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Animal Science

Year: 2014

Volume: 92

Issue: 10

Pages: 4741-4750

Print publication date: 01/10/2014

Online publication date: 02/09/2014

Acceptance date: 30/07/2014

ISSN (print): 0021-8812

ISSN (electronic): 1525-3163

Publisher: American Society of Animal Science


DOI: 10.2527/jas.2014-7625


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