New research in line with philosophy behind Babito
More than 25 years ago Babito® entered the market as a revolutionary creep feed to stimulate early feed intake in piglets. After having undergone several updates during this period some features of Babito® remained unchanged and with good reason…
Better prepared for weaning
As a first feed in life Babito offers highly digestible energy and protein. Carefully selected raw materials and a specific intake concept are stimulating feed intake already a few days after birth. Babito® has been recently enriched with START+. This new concept focuses on stimulating gut maturation via components mimicking the functions of prebiotic oligosaccharides in colostrum and milk from the sow. This enables the piglet to mature its vulnerable gastrointestinal tract right from the start and prepare it better for the stressful weaning period. But did you know that Babito® has been formulated with another specific target? Bringing the piglet in contact with the feed in a playful way. Not only does Babito® stick to the nose of the young piglets due to its specific composition, it also holds a feature which is promoting playful/exploratory behavior: carefully selected cornflakes.
A recent published paper (2019) from Middelkoop et al., at the Wageningen University (WUR), is reconfirming earlier studies which indicate the importance of playful creep feeding piglets. In this study the researchers used an adapted creep feeder in the farrowing house, allowing the piglet to ‘play and explore’ around the feed. They combined in this research this play-feeder with restricted lactation feed for the sow in order to see the effects of the different treatments.
The study revealed that the combination of the play feeder and restricted lactation feed had the biggest effect in attracting piglets. It is obvious that limiting feed intake of lactating sows is not a good way of stimulating young piglet feed intake as it will jeopardize reproductive performance of the sow and will decrease sow and piglet welfare.
However, we must be aware that modern hyperprolific sows are often limited in supplying enough colostrum and milk to their offspring. It is therefore important to make sure that piglets come fast into contact with feed. Something which can be done by stimulating exploratory- or playful behavior.
Investing in future by correct creep feeding
Although the research has seen the biggest effect on feed intake resulting from the sow feeding regime, the play-feeder showed the biggest effect after weaning. The ingestive behavior, drinking as well as eating, were improved 14 days after weaning. Next to this, significant effects were seen 14 days after weaning on ADG, BW, diarrhea, fecal consistency and body lesions. This indicates that spending time and effort in the farrowing house by familiarizing and letting the piglets play and stimulate their exploratory behavior is paying back.
The authors are putting forward several hypotheses for these results:
- More visits to the feeder could lead to better familiarization with the weaning feed which was mixed with the creep feed some days before weaning à less neophobia
- Influencing ‘reward’ hormones such as dopamine, noradrenaline, etc… by associating playing with feeding
- Easier transition from exploratory behavior to eating behavior
- Having an early play experience in life might improve emotional reactions -> “training for the unexpected hypothesis”
According to the authors it can be concluded that supplying toys at the creep feeder can be used as a strategy to reduce weaning stress and improve health welfare and productivity around weaning. Addition of corn flakes into Babito® were always there to stimulate the piglet to express their exploratory behavior. The piglet will root into the bowl, they will touch the corn flakes, start to sniff and chew, and in this way train their mastication muscles and go from exploratory to eating behavior.
Babito® offers at the same time the ability to stimulate feed intake, to let the piglet familiarize with solid feed and to promote the exploratory behavior which will increase animal welfare and successfully overcome the critical weaning phase.