Understanding Early Enteric Issues in Nursery Pigs
Nursery pigs are most vulnerable because of their age and the events they incur in a short time, potentially leading to early enteric issues. Stressful events – such as weaning away from the sow, transitioning from a milk diet to a grain diet and traveling hundreds of miles to a new home – are all problematic for their gut.
In the first seven days of arriving at their new home, nursery pigs will be the most susceptible to health problems as their gut changes and matures. What happens in this timeframe will affect their health journey for the next few weeks and months leading up to market.
Animal Care is Imperative
Dr. Kevin Touchette, a Senior Swine Nutritionist for Ralco, says it is essential that pigs get back on feed and water immediately following travel to ensure their stomach stays on track and body weight increases. They require extra attention and a watchful eye during this time to stay in their best health.
Caregivers are encouraged to pull out pigs not eating and drinking well within large groups and give them special care in a separate pen. Less competition for feed and water sources, plus close fostering, should bring them back up to speed with the rest of the group within a few days.
Dr. Touchette emphasizes that transitioning weaned pigs from a liquid to a dry diet is the most challenging part of the nursery move. The longer non-eaters go without eating, the further behind they fall. Getting those pigs on full feed as soon as possible is vital.
Growers should utilize a starting specialist if they have one available for the first week of care. Their expertise – and the extra hands – will prove beneficial during the labor-intensive time.
A Good Diet is Key to Nursery Success
While it may take a staggered approach to get nursery pigs on a consistent diet, the ingredients in their feed directly impact their performance. The most critical factor in an early diet is high digestibility.
It’s not hard to get pigs to drink water. So as long as the feed is palatable and goes down easy, they should be just as interested in eating. “The more they eat, the faster they grow,” Dr. Touchette says.
Nursery pigs need an ultra-complex diet giving them the additives and nutrients they need to succeed in the first weeks after weaning. The “slope to full feed” or “gut fill” limit, as nutrition experts call it, takes 14 days.
As pigs age, the enzyme production in their gut shifts, changing maturity and capacity. Ralco’s Tactical Start™ nursery program matches ingredients to pigs’ digestive capabilities according to their age, not their weight, to minimize gut damage and improve feed efficiency.
Don’t Be Afraid to Add the Additive
While a pig’s gut is maturing, it's also an ideal time to protect the gut from environmental influencers, such as harmful bacteria, through additives.
The primary job of additives is to create a healthy gut environment while encouraging feed intake. Depending on the situation, additives can be given through dry feed or mixed in the watering system.
Two valuable Ralco products for this purpose are ProsperEO™ and Regano® EX. Containing a blend of patented Microfused® Essential Oils and Actifibe® Prebiotic, both are natural feed additives that support a broad range of health challenges.
The main goals of these additive products are to help pigs overcome stress events, support immunity and improve piglet growth from wean to finish, all by boosting the strength of the pig’s gut.
Let Us Help You Find the Right Solutions for Your Herd
Let the team at Ralco help build a custom recommendation for your farm. Our team of swine experts and nutritionists develop tools using essential oils and prebiotics that can be customized to help improve the health of your pigs in many situations including enteric challenges. Swine producers working with Ralco typically see:
Less outbreaks and severity
Reduced antibiotic use
Overall higher health status of animals
Less fall-behind animals