Post-weaning feed intake was similar in piglets weaned at 4 weeks and offered creep feed or not, but higher (P < 0.001) in piglets weaned at 7 weeks with a higher (P < 0.05) intake for piglets offered creep feed compared with piglets from whom creep feed was witheld. Plasma cortisol response at the day of weaning was lower in piglets weaned at 7 weeks compared with piglets weaned at 4 weeks, and creep feed did not affect cortisol concentration. Plasma I-FABP concentration was not affected by the age of weaning and creep feeding. Intestinal (macro)molecular permeability was not affected by the age of weaning and creep feeding. Both in uninfected and enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli-infected small intestinal segments net fluid absorption was not affected by the age of weaning or creep feeding. Creep feeding, but not the age of weaning, resulted in higher villi and increased crypt depth. In conclusion, weaning at 7 weeks of age in combination with creep feeding improves post-weaning feed intake and reduces weaning stress but does not improve functional characteristics of the small intestinal mucosa.
J. van der Meulen, S. J. Koopmans, R. A. Dekker and A. Hoogendoorn. Increasing weaning age of piglets from 4 to 7 weeks reduces stress, increases post-weaning feed intake but does not improve intestinal functionality. animal. 2010. Vol. 4 (10): 1653-1661.