Stimulating Exploratory Behavior in Piglets: Effects on Pre-Weaning Creep Consumption
Weaning is a very stressful experience for piglets due to removal of the sow, diet changes, mixing with other litters and a change of pen environment. They often fail to consume feed so growth reductions are often seen. This can reduce immunity and impair gut function. Creep feeding in the farrowing pen helps familiarize piglets with solid food. When it is consumed, benefits are seen in performance, but consumption rates are often low. Piglets learn to consume food quickly in the wild, but they are able to participate in social groups and exploratory behaviours. A large tray feeder was shown to decrease weight loss and have more frequent feeder visits than the standard feeder. This seems to be due to more social feeding occurring. It is still unknown if the number of piglets consuming the creep feed is increased or if more feed is eaten by those that consume it. Enrichment had no effect on tray interaction. Over 50% of the pigs with access to a tray feeder were eating the feed before weaning according to the fecal swabs. Creep disappearance was increased with the large tray feeder but no growth rate benefits were observed.