After weaning, a pig’s guts are in a very delicate balancing act. The stress of weaning makes their intestines more “leaky” letting toxins in and leaking fluid out. At the same time, the change in food from mostly milk to a harsher cereal based diet can make the guts inflamed. And that’s if they do eat! Only 50% of pigs eat within 24 hours of weaning and 10% do not eat for more than 48 hours after weaning. Not eating reduces the guts movement meaning any food in them can stagnate. This is made worse if the pigs are not digesting the food properly: any undigested stagnating food provides energy for bacteria which can start to multiply and cause an infection. To top it off the guts front line defence, the acid in the stomach becomes quite neutral after weaning as the lactic acid from the milk diet is suddenly removed. This means that the pig is more susceptible to any new bacteria it ingests after weaning. All in all, it’s a wonder the pigs survive weaning at all!
What’s the Solution?
Historically antibiotics and zinc have been used in creep diets to try and prevent diarrhoea after weaning. But now we are being encouraged to reduce our antibiotic use, especially in feed, and it also looks like zinc may not be an option for us going forward; what else can we do now to stop post-weaning diarrhoea?
5 key points to reduce the risk of Post-Weaning Diarrhoea:
Minimise stress during weaning. Read our blog here
Make sure weaned piglets don’t get chilled (the laying area should be around 28°C)
Encourage creep intake before weaning
Provide creep and water in multiple ways to encourage intake: different feeders, troughs, or even as a gruel (take care with hygiene if feeding a gruel)
Weaning environment must be spotlessly clean, including floors, walls, water sources and feeders. Remember my old saying – you should be happy to eat your sandwiches from the floor!
If you do see signs of post-weaning diarrhoea or mortality in your post-weaning pigs it is always important to contact your veterinary surgeon, as in some cases treatment may be needed.
For further information please see contact Zoetis UK Limited, Walton Oaks, Dorking Road, Tadworth, Surrey KT20 7NS. www.zoetis.co.uk Customer Support: 0845 300 8034. Use medicines responsibly (www.noah.co.uk/responsible). Date of preparation: March 2017. AH242/17
Laura graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in 2009; after her veterinary degree she went to the University of Nottingham to undertake a PhD specialising in enteric disease of the young pig. After being awarded her PhD Laura spent a very enjoyable three years in a specialist pig practice in the South West of England. She then took the leap into Industry and joined the Zoetis pig team in September 2016.
She decided on specialising in pigs before qualifying as a vet and has not looked back since; she is very passionate about welfare and the success of British Pig Farming!
In her free time Laura is also passionate about good food and wine, fortunately the eating and drinking is balanced out by the love of walking, trips to the gym and Sunday morning runs.