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Life in the farrowing crate is on a bell curve. Piglets on the top end are healthy and robust, but it’s the bottom 25-percent that are the most challenged animals. And that’s where your opportunities exist to improve piglet mortality and growth rate.
Dr. Steve Pollmann is a pork industry expert with DSP Consulting in Utah. He says weaning is one of the biggest stresses in a pig’s life due to social, dietary, and environmental changes. By increasing the wean age, you’re shifting the bell curve.
"I recall times when we were weaning pigs between 7-10 days of age and wondered why we had problems, and today’s weaning age is closer to 19-21 days of age. But more recent research shows that we ought to continue to move the age up to eliminate that stress," says Pollman. "And so, if I were to make one recommendation to people today, I would encourage you to give serious consideration to move your wean age to 23-25 days."
You’ll see a higher wean-pig cost, but in the long run you’ll see more return on investment due to improved wean-to-finish performance because of the older age, and the stresses of weaning a younger pig will be dramatically reduced.
Pollmann says producers often ask him how to know if their pigs are doing well after weaning.
"A very simple tool that I’ve used that works very well, is to have producers weigh 100 pigs individually at weaning, and then one week later and calculate the gain of those pigs individually. That in itself is the real acid test," he says. "If pigs are not gaining weight the first week post-weaning, you’ve got some system problems and there’s lots of things that need to be identified."
More thoughts on determining piglet weaning age
Three tips for high litter weaning averages