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Start strong, finish strong

Article-Start strong, finish strong

National Pork Board Nursery pigs eating
Right feed formulation in the right combination with the right ingredients will go a long way in the first two weeks.

Research has shown that pigs that start well, finish well. Strong, healthy pigs in early nursery tend to stay that way through finishing and are more resilient to challenges they will face. And those that have a tough first few weeks in the nursery? They often never catch up.

At Carthage, our philosophy is to have a solid early start program to move the needle on profitability, but also for morale. A common frustration are pigs that won't start on solid feed. This can be a real challenge; not only does it set the pig back, but it is hard to watch young pigs fall behind and require continuous treatment. This can pull focus away from the rest of the herd, and especially with independent producers, take time away for other necessities.

Feed quality matters
The right feed formulation in the right combination with the right ingredients will go a long way in the first two weeks, and this starts with ingredients. The foundation of the diet is that it meets all the standard required specifications of a nursery diet, however, there are many ways you can put that diet together. Two key areas that require a thoughtful approach are lactose and protein. Your protein sources will affect the digestibility of your diet while having the right amount of lactose helps stimulate feed intake.

Diets aren't necessarily one size fits all. They should flex to consider the operation set-up such as pig flow, health, age, weaning weight and feed mill capabilities.

Balance cost and performance
Feed is a significant expense in raising pigs, so it is easy to hesitate to change diets. Evaluate the larger picture — what are the changes and what else are they impacting? Did the pigs require fewer antibiotic treatments, lowering your pharmaceutical expense? Are you gaining pounds in end weight that resulted in a higher value end product? It is critical to evaluate your ROI, not just feed cost.

Program evaluation
What makes a successful start? During the time in the nursery, it is keeping piglets from falling behind, from getting pulled into sick pens, seeing little to no scours and minimal antibiotic or medication use needed.

From a data perspective, your evidence will be in your closeout data. What was your mortality? Culls? How did they perform? Did you have a significant disease flare-up in the finisher? A strong start helps them finish well with the rest of the group, translating to pounds out the door. In order to have the highest amount of profitable pounds, it all starts in the nursery.

Carthage Veterinary Service relies on science and experience to provide unique and practical solutions to achieve the best outcomes for producers and their animals. Our teams work with producers and our own production teams daily, and have a deep understanding of the challenges and intricacies of swine nutrition. Therefore, our diet formulations and philosophies are focused on production and finding the right solution for each operation.

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