Paul Toplis: AB Neo Technical Director (Swine)
Our trial work with Axcelera-P has shown up some highly profitable savings from reduced post day 4 mortality. By focusing on the post-weaning accelerated growth we were slow to spot the benefits of Axcelera-P in saving pre-weaning piglets that starve or become unviable due to competition at the teat. Over time, robust and compelling data accumulated through commercial farm trials across several countries forced us to acknowledge that Accelerators were also reducing piglet mortality
Too many people believe that piglets only die in the first 3 days after birth and any losses after that are not really significant.
When do piglets die?
A study by White and his co-workers into supervised versus unattended farrowing carefully recorded when piglets died in a 21 day weaning system. While their main interest was in the benefits of supervised farrowing (a huge 8.1% reduction in pre-weaning mortality) between 4% and 5% mortality happened from day 4 onwards. So in unattended farrowing the mortality was up at 18.2% with 13.3% happening in the first 3 days but a highly significant 4.9% mortality figure from day 4 in both systems. With the attended farrowings, total mortality was down to 10.1% but a stubborn 4.1% remained from day 4 onwards.
What this means for us today with our litter sizes of 13-15 is that we can expect to lose between 0.5 -0.7 piglets per litter from day 4 to weaning. If we put a financial value on that loss it is over £15-£22/litter which translates to losses of 35 -£50/sow /year. So why are we are so fixated on the mortality in the first 3 days of life to the exclusion of this valuable loss later in the pre-weaning period?
Overcoming starvation and restricted milk intake
We know that an increasing amount of this mortality is down to direct starvation or restricted milk intake due to increasing competition at the udder. We can do a ‘sense check’ here by looking how many piglets we saved when we ran trials on supplementary milk systems (milk replacer available in the farrowing crate from 30 hours after farrowing until weaning) with our customers. Data from our farm trials has consistently shown a 0.4-0.5piglet/litter increase in litter size at weaning which ties in well with the typical losses of 0.5-0.7piglets/litter in mortality studies from day 4 onwards.
Reducing mortality by a further 0.5 piglets per litter – easily
When we began farm trials with Axcelera-P we recorded improved mortality of 5% (a 36% improvement!) That is 13.9% mortality was reduced to 8.9% across 5 farm trials). At first we were reluctant to accept this was a direct effect of Axcelera-P and were suspicious that is was a bi-product of staff being there more often to run the trial. Subsequent trials in France, Spain and Italy have all recorded mortality improvements (between 2% and 4% or 0.25-0.5 piglets per litter). Seeing it so consistently across farm trials has made us look again at our data and reassess the dual contribution of Axcelera-P; reducing preweaning mortality and accelerating the lifetime performance after weaning.
Our trials with Axcelera-P which have been focusing on post weaning benefits in growth have reminded us (finally) of two important things:-
- Up to £50 per sow per year of avoidable losses occur through piglet mortality AFTER day 4.
- Much of this loss can be avoided by the introduction of an Accelerator diet from Day 4.
White KR et al (1996): Increasing piglet survival through an improved farrowing management protocol