Science Page: Importance of birth weight and colostrum intake on piglet survival and growth performance

This is our Friday rubric: every week a new Science Page from the Bob Morrison’s Swine Health Monitoring Project. The previous editions of the science page are available on our website.

This week we are sharing a report from Drs. Jeffrey Wiegert and Mark Knauer from North Carolina State University on the importance of birth weight and colustrum intake on piglet survival and growth performance.

Key points

  • Piglet birth weight and colostrum intake are positively associated with pre-weaning survival and weaning weight.
  • Compared to piglets of similar birth weight, piglets with greater weight gain within the first day of life showed improved average daily feed intake and average daily gain in finishing and required fewer days on feed to reach market weight.

The study followed 808 piglets from birth to weaning and measured birth weight, colostrum intake, weight at 24 hours of life and weight at weaning. Results showed that a 1 lb increase in birth weight resulted in a 2.8 lb increase in weaning weight and increased piglet survival chances. Similarly, a 1 g increase in colostrum intake was associated with an 8.8 g increase in weaning weight.

To study consequences of early-life parameters on later stages of production, feed intake was recorded for 448 piglets from 74 days of age until the average pen weight reached 265 lb. Results showed that in both the low and high birth weight, a high colostrum intake increased the average daily gain and decreased the age at market.

colostrum intake and birth weight effect Knauer 2017
BWT: birth weight, LBWT: Low birth weight, HBWT: High birth weight, GAIN: colostrum intake,  LGAIN: Low colostrum intake, HGAIN High colostrum intake, WT:weight, ADFI: Average Daily Feed Intake, ADG: Average Daily Gain, F:G Feed:Gain ratio

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