Research partners: University of Newcastle, ADAS, BIOSS, Harper Adams University College, BPEX and SAC
Project duration: 2003-2007
Aims and objectives
- To determine whether increasing weaning age gives significant health and performance benefits when all dietary AGPs are removed and heavy metals (zinc, copper) are reduced
- To determine the implications for production economics and environmental impact at a whole systems level for different weaning ages.
- There were significant benefits from later weaning in terms of piglet performance during the immediate post-weaning period
- Later weaned piglets had significantly better feed intakes and daily liveweight gains and a more favourable gut microflora (assessed by faecal lactobacilli:coliform ratio)
- Pigs weaned at later ages were significantly less likely to be removed from trial or die during the weaning to slaughter period
- When progeny performance was considered over the full period from birth to slaughter, no overall benefits of later weaning for survival, health or growth rate were seen
- In terms of sow productivity, there was a significant production penalty to be paid by later weaning
- Under current UK conditions and with appropriate nutrition and management, later weaning of piglets at 6 or 8 weeks of age appears to offer no significant benefits for health or performance of the progeny which outweigh the reduction in sow output when compared to the current industry norm of 4 week weaning.