It is widely known that post-weaning feeding behaviour is closely related to water intake and that an early feeding start, before weaning, and also post-weaning is correlated with better growth and less intestinal pathology. Furthermore, maintaining hydration is crucial for gut functionality at stressful times such as weaning, especially in hot climates.
Intestinal health is key to a piglet’s lifetime performance. When we consider the functionality of the small intestine, we must examine the activity that is happening at a cellular level. Enterocytes are intestinal absorptive cells, which line the inner surface of the small and large intestines. These epithelial cells are the final gateway for the absorption of all nutrients into the bloodstream. By focussing on micro-enteral nutrition, the delivery of small amounts of water, electrolytes, and readily absorbed nutrients directly to the gastrointestinal tract, we can help support intestinal development of piglets, with positive consequences for the rest of their life.
The absorption of nutrients by the transepithelial transport system in the small intestine must be fast and efficient to prevent bacteria using these nutrients. Also, the intestinal epithelial cells, along the small intestine, play a key role in their antimicrobial defence. It is important to prime these cells, so they are best placed to provide this defence mechanism within the small intestine.
At weaning, the key challenge is to minimise disruption to the piglet’s development, avoiding the ‘post weaning growth pause,’ which is associated with changes in the pigs’ intestinal biochemistry. This can be triggered by heat stress or the stress of initial separation from their litter and mother, and can lead to weight loss and reduced growth. Intervention is needed to reduce this stress by supporting the gut and stimulating feed intake.
Tonisity developed Tonisity PxW WeanBetter (PxW) to support piglets through stressful transitions at weaning. PxW is a water-soluble solution, designed to be administered to weaning-age pigs through ordinary water lines. It is specifically designed to improve water intake and intestinal function during the weaning transition, by focussing on micro-enteral nutrition. Where other products feed the pig, PxW is used to directly feed the intestinal cells in the gut. There is a strong link between water intake post-weaning and feed consumption as well as gut health. This increase in post-weaning water consumption is key to better nursery performance. Prior to weaning, it is recommended to administer Tonisity Px, which not only encourages feed intake but also has a scientifically proven impact on pre-weaning mortality (20% reduction on average).
In a recent trial, on a 3,550-sow farm in the Zaragoza area of North-eastern Spain, water consumption was measured between a control group and a group receiving PxW through the water lines. Water consumption was 1.6 times higher on average in the PxW group than in the control group over three days just after weaning. This shows that using PxW after weaning helps pigs thrive rather than just survive during this stressful time.
Tonisity witnessed similar results in a US trial with 848 pigs weaned at an average weight of 5.9kg, over a five-day period. Average daily intake per pig was 0.253 litres in the control group and 0.799 litres in the PxW group. The five-day cumulative intake of the control group was 1.26 litres and 3.99 litres in the PxW group, representing 4.3% and 13.5% of body weight as water intake respectively. In this trial, it was also observed that 76% of the fall-behind pigs after 21 days post arrival came from the control side.
Furthermore, a Tonisity meta-analysis from the US shows that trials conducted on seven different farms on 31,861 weaned pigs, pigs drank 1.7 times more PxW than water on average. Pigs started drinking from as early as 30 minutes post arrival, leading to a 57% reduction in mortality and a 41% reduction in fall behinds.
With warmer weather approaching, we know that heat stress can have negative impact on performance. Feeding techniques like feeding the pigs during the cooler times of the day, is one way of avoiding heat stress. Precision feeding can also help to adapt feed composition to the increased temperature. We can increase some specific micro-nutrient supplies which requirements could be increased in situation of heat stress, which can help adapt the electrolyte balance and vitamins needed for coping with increased oxidative stress. This can be achieved by adapting the nutrient concentration to compensate for reduced feed intake. Tonisity PxW contains the essential mix of energy sources, amino acids, proteins, balanced electrolytes and prebiotics to deliver the essential nutrients needed to cope with heat stress, in a palatable formula that attracts pigs to the drinkers immediately after weaning.