1 March 1996

Liquid diet helps put piglets on fast track

By Jessica Buss

BABY pigs fed liquid diets immediately after weaning grow faster than those fed a dry version of the same diet.

That was the message of Prof Peter Brooks of the University of Plymouth at Alltechs Biotechnology in the Food Industry conference.

"Small pigs are used to taking a liquid diet of low dry matter before weaning and they have the stomach capacity," he said. Liquid diets avoided the dehydration that often occurred in the week after weaning.

Prof Brooks claimed studies showed liquid-fed pigs had higher feed intakes and increased growth in the four weeks after weaning.

"In the fourth week liquid-fed pigs growth rates slowed but they had grown to the stage when they needed a change of diet."

After redesigning the liquid feeding troughs to cut waste the trial was repeated. Although feed conversion rates were slightly lower than for dry-fed piglets, growth was more important through this period, he stressed (see table). He also claimed that weaned pigs fed very wet liquid matter diets (five parts water to one feed) showed similar growth rates compared with those on drier liquid diets after initial resistance.

Prof Brooks also cited a recent Seale Hayne study showing that although pigs may choose dry diets, liquid diets improve performance and reduce bad behaviour, which affects performance.

"Growth rates of pigs not involved in belly nosing were higher and most of these pigs were liquid fed," he says. Pigs belly nosing showed growth rates of 265g a day compared with 305g a day. &#42

Feeding trials

Liquid dietDry diet

Daily gain (g)454397

Feed conv ratio1.441.37