6th February 2014

The latest European Union pig meat forecasts have been released for 2013 and 2014. Notable is the overall 2.5% reduction in the number of sows across the EU, which follows a 3.5% decline last autumn.

The census in May-June shows a further decline in overall pig stock of 0.9%. This follows a 1.7% fall since the previous count last winter. Pig meat production in 2012 fell by 1.8% compared to the previous year to 22.135mt, while it is estimated output will fall again for 2013 by 0.7% to 21.973mt.

Pig meat exports are forecast to be stable or a slight reduction in export volumes. For the period January to August 2013, exports were 0.6% below the same time-frame of the previous year. As for imports? Well the latest figures for the period January to August 2013 reveal a continuation in declining volumes - down 7.2% from the previous year.

However, and despite these figures, over the last few months, pig price volatility has made an unexpected and unwelcome return. Maximising output per pig and per sow is the most effective means of reducing production costs per kg. Modern pigs have significant growth potential advantages when compared with pigs of a decade ago. We need to maximise biological potential by feeding pigs in such a way as we enable their potential.

According to the Gompertz description of growth, early differences in weight get magnified throughout the pigís lifetime. Therefore, the key to increasing slaughter weights is to maximise weaning weight and first stage performance. By doing so we set the pig off on a high trajectory of growth, see Figure 1, below. This in turn leads to more kilograms of meat produced during the same feeding period. Itís simple, the best way to help pigs meet their potential is to maximise intake and provision of high quality creep feed!

Figure 1. The lifetime growth performance of the pig.


Creep feeding is a necessity for three reasons:

1. To provide nutrients for maximal piglet growth during lactation.
2. To promote development of gut enzymes pre weaning.
3. To condition and maintain gut health integrity post weaning.

This crucial period both pre and post weaning cannot be overlooked if producers wish to drive lifetime pig performance.

Case Study:

In collaboration with a large multiple site producer in Ireland, we have undertaken a scheme of work to improve total herd performance including lifetime performance trials.

What we did

In one of our primary studies looking at 800 pigs, we performed a lifetime performance trial with the aim of driving carcass weight. The only change implemented was to amend the nursery feeding programme. From the current allocation of 2kgs starter and 2kgs post starter per pig we allocated pigs with 3kg starter and 7kg post starter. These pigs were then followed through the growing and finishing stages, housed side by side in the same accommodation with feed continually recorded and pigs weighed every four weeks.

What we learnt

By allocating the appropriate creep diet and increasing feeding level from a total of 4kg/pig to a total of 10kg/pig, the results speak for themselves, see Table 1. From weaning to day 117, daily liveweight gain increased by 39g/d. Liveweight increased by 4.48kgs and FCE improved by 0.18.


This performance trial is one of many that Devenish Nutrition have undertaken that clearly proves the importance of creep feeding on lifetime pig growth, and your bottom line!

How does providing that extra creep look for you?


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