Peat Moss for Piglets at Weaning

Weaning is one of the most stressful times in a pig's life. Not only does it mean big changes in social, thermal and physical environment, but it also means a huge change in diet form and composition. As a result, piglets often suffer from poor nutrient intakes and performance during this initial period following weaning, until they are able to make the necessary adjustments. To reduce stress during this period, many different techniques, including the development of special pre and post-weaning diets, have attempted to encourage pigs to consume dry feed and to stimulate the development of digestive capacity. The addition of peat moss, although it has little nutritive value, to piglet rations is one strategy that is showing some promise.

Not all sources of peat moss are created equal. Different sources of peat moss contain different compounds, including some that could contain harmful bacteria. Some of the beneficial compounds that have been described in certain sources of peat moss include:

  • easily fermentable fibre and other compounds that stimulate the growth of specific good bacteria (like lactobacilli) in the digestive tract of young pigs
  • compounds that may attach to the surface of the intestine, therefore providing competition for disease-causing bacteria
  • compounds that may adsorb some toxins present in feed or produced by bacteria in the intestine

Some of the benefits that have been associated with the feeding of peat moss during this critical time around weaning include:

  • improvement in gut health
  • stimulation of the development of digestive capacity
  • enhanced feed intake and performance shortly after weaning
  • an alternative source of iron that may compensate for the lack of iron in sow's milk

In a preliminary study completed in 1997, researchers at the University of Guelph observed that feeding peat moss to piglets tended to improve post-weaning performance and reduce the number of poor-doing pigs, but the differences were not statistically significant. These initial results led to a follow-up research trial, where piglets were provided either a control diet, 7.5% peat moss included in the diet, or free access to peat moss from one week post-farrowing to one week post-weaning.

Table 1 summarizes the results of the experiment. These results indicate that providing piglets free access to peat moss around the time of weaning resulted in increased weaning weights, increased pre-weaning average daily gains and tended to increase body weight 28 days after weaning. There were no differences between treatments in litter size, pre-weaning piglet mortality or post-weaning piglet survival rate.

These results are encouraging, especially in light of recent global backlash against antimicrobial use. As consumer acceptance shifts away from the use of antimicrobials in pig production, all possible alternatives are being. With the potential probiotic effects of peat moss, it may be part of the long-term solution.

Table 1. Effect of Peat Moss on Performance of Piglets around the Time of Weaning

 

Treatments

Control

Peat Moss in Diet

Control + Free Access to Peat Moss

Body Weight (kg)

Birth = Day 0

1.47

1.54

1.54

Day 14

4.40 a

4.77 ab

5.07 b

Wean (Day 18)

5.33

5.63

6.05

28 Days Post-weaning

14.56

14.74

15.74

Body Weight Gain (g/pig/day)

Birth - Wean

213 a

234 ab

249 b

Wean - 28 Days Post-weaning

329

325

346

Feed Intake- excluding peat moss (g/pig/day)

Birth - Wean

6

9

8

Wean - 7 Days Post-weaning

191

178

165

7 - 28 Days Post-weaning

535

561

583

Usage of Peat Moss (g/pig/day)

Day 7 - Wean

 
 

162

Wean - 7 Days Post-weaning

 
 

319

Feed:gain - excluding peat moss

Wean - 7 Days Post-weaning

1.05 a

1.26 b

1.15 ab

7 - 28 Days Post-weaning

1.43

1.48

1.43

a,b Within a row, means without a common superscript letter differ (P<0.05)

Source: deLange, C.F.M. and Faires, M. 2001. Peat moss to stimulate feed intake and performance of piglets around the time of weaning. 20th Annual Centralia Swine Research Update, January 31, 2001.

Note: The peat moss used in these experiments was Pig PerkTM, supplied by Zephyr Peat Land Harvesting in Mount Albert, Ontario.


For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: Greg Simpson - Swine Nutritionist/OMAFRA
Creation Date: 01 April 2001
Last Reviewed: 29 Febuary 2012