Despite highly variable creep feed consumption, creep feed increases feed intake and BW gain early after weaning, suggesting that creep feed consumption might familiarize piglets with a solid diet. However, diets offered to lactating and weaned piglets are the most expensive diets within pig production and the effect of these diets on lifetime pig performance is inconsistent. The aim of the current study was to investigate the impact of creep feed consumption during lactation and different starter diet allowances on piglets’ gut structure and lifetime growth performance. For this purpose, a total of 320 weaned pigs (Landrace × Large White) were used in a 2 × 2 factorial arrangement to study growth performance and gut structure, respectively. At weaning, 160 piglets that ate creep feed and 160 piglets that were not offered creep feed during lactation were selected and allocated to 1 of the 2 starter 1 diet allowance level: low level (LL) pigs received 2 kg/pig of a starter 1 diet and high level (HL) pigs received 6 kg/pig of a starter 1 diet. At weaning and at 1 and 3 weeks after weaning, 8 piglets per treatment were sacrificed, and their small intestine morphology was evaluated (villus height and crypt depth).
Feed intake was increased in piglets that ate creep feed during the first week after weaning, but no effect of creep feed intake was observed on piglet’s growth or gut structure during the post-weaning period. A higher ADG and BW from weaning to 16 weeks after weaning was observed on piglets fed HL, as well as a lower feed conversion ratio (FCR) from weaning to 6 weeks after weaning. Moreover, piglets fed HL after weaning also had higher villi height and greater crypt depth than LL piglets at 3 weeks after weaning.
In conclusion, creep feed consumption during lactation increased feed intake early after weaning, suggesting an improved capacity of piglets to cope with weaning. However, creep feed consumption did not influence on piglets’ growth performance. Offering piglets 6 kg of starter diet enhanced piglets’ growth performance during the growing and finishing phase, probably by improving gut structure after weaning.
Muns, R., and Magowan, E. The effect of creep feed intake and starter diet allowance on piglets' gut structure and growth performance after weaning. Journal of Animal Science 96.9 (2018): 3815-3823. https://doi.org/10.1093/jas/sky239