Immediately after weaning (± 28d) there is a critical period for piglets. During this period, the piglet goes through a number of changes, including moving to another house, changing pen mates and physiological changes in gut structure and function. Multiple challenges that can have a major impact on health.
In addition to social challenges due to, for example, redistribution of piglets into groups of the same sex and/or size, the piglets also switch to a solid feed source instead of liquid after weaning. The first days after weaning are therefore a critical period, because the feed intake is initially greatly reduced. The weaning process affects gut morphology, energy metabolism, immune responses and growth. Below is an overview of the general effects after weaning.
After weaning, the feed intake is reduced, causing a shortage of nutrients for enterocytes: intestinal cells on the surface of the intestinal wall. These intestinal cells deteriorate, resulting in less digestive enzyme activity and damage to the intestinal wall (Boudry et al., 2004). These changes adversely affect the gut’s absorptive capacity, which reduces the piglets’ growth and makes them susceptible to post-weaning diarrhea (Pluske et al., 1997).