Sustainable systems for management of the weaner pig through nutrition (NUTWEAN)


Cereals & Oilseeds
Project code:
01 September 2003 - 30 September 2007
AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds.
AHDB sector cost:
HGCA (£142,500, Project No. 2688)
Total project value:
Project leader:
Professor Ilias Kyriazakis, Scottish Agricultural College, West Mains Road, Edinburgh, Midlothian, EH9 3JG



About this project


 NUTWEAN aimed to develop sustainable management systems for weaner pigs without antimicrobial growth promoters (AGP) whilst maximising use of home-grown cereals and oilseeds. Pre- and post-weaning nutrition was modified to exploit the potential of dietary components to enhance gut health and food intake.

  • Sodium butyrate, but not inulin, improved gut development and feed conversion ratio pre-weaning, but without post weaning benefits.
  • In vitro rheological characterisation may predict in vivo starch digestibility from cereals. Soft wheat is associated with improved nutritional value in terms of gut environment and nitrogen digestibility.
  • Micronisation or extrusion increases wheat's nutritional value. Extrusion may overcome penalties of its endogenous ?-amylase on performance.
  • Soluble non-starch, "non-viscous" polysaccharides (e.g. inulin) could minimise post weaning diarrhoea whilst maximising performance, especially at high protein levels and increased disease risk.
  • Using low protein diets in the immediate post weaning period maintains gut health and decreases risk of post weaning diarrhoea, especially in younger pigs and under disease challenge. The associated small penalty on growth does not seem to affect long term performance.
  • Inclusion of formic acid or phytase did not affect performance or gut health, but phytase may be an alternative to inorganic phosphorus.
  • Micronised whole rapeseed didn't adversely affect feed conversion ratio or feed cost/kg gain at dietary levels greater than previously accepted.
  • Outdoor rearing results in better performance around weaning, and improved gut development, but pre-weaning mortality rate may be elevated. Delayed weaning to 6 weeks of age reduced performance of indoor but not of outdoor reared piglets. Rearing environment did not interact with the positive responses observed to use of AGP.
  • Under commercial conditions, pigs offered high quality diets (cooked cereals, animal protein sources, extruded wheat), had improved health and performance in the immediate post weaning period only, with no added benefits in the longer term (e.g. until slaughter).

 NUTWEAN's expected benefits include:

  • decreased post-weaning diarrhoea, leading to improved health and welfare
  • increased profits from improved post weaning performance
  • improved feed efficiency resulting in a decrease in nitrogen output and reduced environmental impact
  • potential for increased market for UK cereals and oilseeds
  • reduced environmental burden of minerals and chemical residues
  • reduced dependency on antimicrobial agents.

NUTWEAN's results have been widely communicated through over 20 refereed and review papers, 25 conference papers, numerous articles in technical magazines, and presentations at industry meetings. Further KT activities are planned, whilst commercial partners have taken up outcomes in their research and diet formulation portfolios. The project demonstrated nutritional and health benefits of cereals and oilseeds in weaner diets. This information will enable the arable and pig sectors to work together to ensure arable farmers supply e.g. wheat of optimum quality for inclusion in pig feeds.

A number of these papers (see the Appendix of this report) are available on application to HGCA, but as many of them are in draft form it was deemed better not to put them on the website.