The nursery stage occurs from weaning at around 3 weeks of age until 8 to 10 weeks of age. Pigs are grouped at weaning into pens sorted by gender and/or size. The Nursery Growth Rate is extremely critical to later performance. For each 1 pound less target body weight at 10 weeks of age, it can take an additional 5 days to reach market weight later on.
The nursery pigs at left have just been moved out of the farrowing facilities and placed in the nursery pen. Can you find the two pairs of fighting pigs in the image? They compete for the warmest sleeping spot, best access to food, and for group dominance. The unsuccessful fighter may come away with an ear hematoma, like this pig on the right. (The hemotoma will probably resorb in a few weeks.)
The several phases in the nursery are defined by changes in the ration. For example, the Prestarter or first phase ration contains high quality protein sources like milk, whey, plasma, and blood. This is very expensive and a feed budget is critical to control costs. Pigs are fed a specific amount of feed instead of receiving that feed for a specified length of time. In other words, they get 10 lbs. instead of getting it for 7 days.
Environmental needs are important in the nursery. Ambient temperature fluctuations are highly stressful. The lower critical temperature (LCT) is 40F. What the nursery pig feels is influenced by insulation and moisture. The pigs at right are cold pigs! Management changes must be instituted immediately to ensure adequate Nursery Growth Rate.
Temps below LCT result in stress, which in turn increases the likelihood of problems resulting in poor growth rate.
Copyright ©1997 by the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine
Faculty: Dr. Paul Pitcher
Student: Sandra Springer,'99