We all know the struggle of weaning pigs, getting them on feed and trying to avoid hiccups along the way. Of course, when getting those day-one shots in, iron dextran injection is at the top of the list. If you have a vaccination protocol, making sure those are done at the appropriate times is important, too. But what do you do when you’re nearing the age of weaning them? Do you start them on pellets or ground feed in the crate? Do you wean to the nursery and then start them on either pellets or ground feed? In talking to customers, friends and other breeders, everyone has their own way of doing things and knows the best fit for their operation.
What I like to recommend and how we try to start ours is with pellets in the crate. We use the ESP Phase 2 pellet.We start with sprinkling pellets on the mats we have in the crates around 7-10 days old, when they hit 10 days old we have round stainless steel feeders that attach right to the crate and start by covering the bottom of the pan with pellets and gradually adding more to the pan as we get closer to weaning. We do this so we get them interested in playing with them and nibbling on them, similar to cattle operations that creep feed their calves. If you fill the pan, as many of you have I’m sure have experienced, the pellets end up on the floor or in the pit and wasted. We typically put 1-1.5 bags of pellets through each litter before starting them on ground feed. Some find that because the pigs are curious enough and get into the sow’s feed a little, that starting them right off the bat on ground feed works just fine. Depending on the female and how they are doing in lactation, we do occasionally supplement with milk replacer as well. With switching to the ESP Sow 100 Premix we are thankful for not having to supplement as much as we have in past years.
Once we get them in the nursery we continue the pellets until we get that 1-1.5 bags through them, then we transition them to the nursery ground feed (ESP phase 2 Mixer) that is around 22% protein. In the ESP program the Phase 2 Pellet uses the same base mix as the Phase 2 ground feed, so it makes for a very easy and successful transition without any drastic changes. Keeping the nursery warm and well-ventilated is crucial to keeping those piglets healthy and on the right track! We keep ours right around 75-78 degrees. We typically try to pick a nicer day to move them from the farrowing barn to the nursery so they do not get cold-shocked.
Once they have spent their time in the nursery and we get the chip pens set up, they hit the chips. We make sure to get low-dust chips, fill the bottoms of the feeders and equip each pen with heat lamps to help keep them comfortable. We keep them on that same ESP Phase 2 nursery feed, full-feed until sale day. This keeps them looking fresh with that extra “pop” everyone likes to see!