The nature of modern weaning
Under natural conditions, weaning is a long-term process1. However, in modern production, it takes place early and abruptly. The sudden separation from the sow is accompanied by the need to adapt to a new eating and drinking pattern, mixing with other piglets and establishing a new hierarchy. At the same time, the piglet must cope with the change from sow milk to plant-based solid feed, containing more complex proteins and carbohydrates. This causes great psychological stress3.
These events often result in reduced feed intake in the days immediately after weaning and can cause anorexia in the piglets. This is critical because the weaning age of the pig – around three to four weeks – coincides with the fact that the pig's organs, particularly the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, are still developing and not yet fully functional.
Balancing the feed
A constant nutrient supply is necessary to support GI tract development and maintain the mucosa. If the intestine is empty, the villi and a large part of the cells responsible for the digestive and absorption processes will degenerate4. Diarrhoea and reduced growth are the frequent outcome.
Feeding is a balancing act, as feed components and their digestibility must be continuously adapted to the pig’s changing needs during growth. A wide range of feed additives are available to support pig digestive systems and counteract the negative impact of the weaning transition5.