The influence of supplementary feeding during suckling and later weaning on growth performance, incidences of post-weaning diarrhoea and immunity of piglets

Dar'ya Vodolazs'ka*, T. Feyera, L. Foldager, C. Lauridsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


There is an urgent call for alternative strategies to the use of antibiotics for treatment of diarrhoea during the first 14 days of the post-weaning period. The alternative strategies should be directed at enhancement of the robustness of pigs in terms of body weight at weaning, and contribute to proper functional development and maturation of the intestine before and after weaning. Therefore, both nutrition and physiological age are of high interest. We hypothesised that a liquid nutritional supplement during the suckling period, and/or an increased weaning age, would enhance growth performance of the piglets during the suckling and post-weaning period. A 2 × 2 factorial design with two nutritional strategies; i.e., supplementation with milk replacer/feed (milk replacer provided from day 2 shifted to wet feed at day 12 of age) vs. solely suckling of the sows; and two weaning ages (day 24 vs. day 35) were used. As expected, average weight at weaning and average daily gain after weaning were greater in litters weaned at day 35 (P < 0.001). During the first week after weaning, greater average daily gain (P < 0.001) was observed for litters supplied with milk replacer/wet feed, and greater feed intake (P < 0.001) was observed in piglets supplied with milk replacer/wet feed and weaned at day 35. Piglets weaned at day 35 had greater average body content of protein and fat (P < 0.001) as compared with their littermates weaned at day 24. Provision of the milk replacer/wet feed during suckling increased the faecal dry matter content (P = 0.05) after weaning; while the proportion of piglets with a faecal consistency score >3 was greatest in litters weaned at day 35 and raised solely on sow milk (P = 0.03). The results showed that the nutritional supplementation before weaning had beneficial impact on intestinal functionality (with regard to faecal dry matter content results), while increased weaning age improved growth performance before and after weaning, as well as increased fat depots after weaning. The provision of nutritional supplement and increased weaning age enhanced post-weaning feed intake. In conclusion, the applied management strategies (supplementary feeding during suckling and later weaning) improved piglets’ characteristics before and after weaning, indicating enhanced robustness among weaned piglets.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105321
JournalLivestock Science
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023


  • Diarrhoea
  • Milk replacer
  • Pigs
  • Weaning age
  • Wet feed

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