Effects of pre-weaning housing in a multi-suckling system on performance and carbohydrate absorption of relatively light and heavy piglets around weaning

S.E. van Nieuwamerongen, J.E. Bolhuis, C.M.C. van der Peet-Schwering, B. Kemp, N.M. Soede*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The low feed intake and stress associated with abrupt weaning in conventional pig farming often result in poor post-weaningperformance, which is related to impaired intestinal function. We investigated effects of housing conditions before weaning onperformance around weaning of relatively light and heavy piglets. Before weaning, piglets were housed either with five sows andtheir litters in a multi-suckling (MS) system or in pens with individually housed sows in farrowing crates (FC). After weaning at4 weeks of age (day 0), 16 groups of four piglets (two light and two heavy litter-mates) were housed under equal conditions inenriched pens. Mannitol (day −5 and day 5) and galactose (day 5) were orally administered as markers for gastrointestinalcarbohydrate absorption, and after 20 min a blood sample was taken (sugar absorption test). In addition, BW, feed intake andfaecal consistency as an indicator for diarrhoea, were assessed frequently during 2 weeks post-weaning. Pre-weaning housing,weight class and their interaction did not affect post-weaning faecal consistency scores. Weight gain over 2 weeks did not differbetween pre-weaning housing treatments, but MS piglets gained more (0.67 ± 0.12 kg) than FC piglets (0.39 ± 0.16 kg) betweendays 2 and 5 post-weaning, P=0.02), particularly in the ‘heavy’ weight class (interaction, P=0.04), whereas feed intake wassimilar for both treatments. This indicates a better utilisation of the ingested feed of the MS piglets compared with the FC pigletsin the early post-weaning period. Pre-weaning mannitol concentrations were unaffected by pre-weaning housing, weight class andtheir interaction. On day 5 post-weaning, however, MS piglets had a lower plasma concentration of mannitol (320 v. 592 nmol/ml,SEM =132, P=0.04) and galactose (91 v. 157 nmol/ml, SEM =20, P=0.04) than FC piglets, regardless of weight class. Inconclusion, MS and FC piglets differed in aspects of post-weaning gastrointestinal carbohydrate absorption and in weight gainbetween days 2 and 5 after weaning, but pre-weaning housing did not affect feed intake, weight gain and measures of faecalconsistency over the first 2 weeks after weaning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)802-809
Number of pages8
Issue number4
Early online date9 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


  • group housing
  • intestinal function
  • multi-suckling system
  • pigs
  • weaning


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