Management Piglets from Birth to Weaning

Management Piglets from Birth to Weaning

Management Piglets from birth to weaning

●Almost 50 % of the pigs that die on a farm, die before they are 14 days old. Good management in the farrowing house, where the piglets are born and kept for the first 28 to 35 days of their lives, is therefore of the utmost importance. Remember to keep the piglets dry and in a draught-free pen or box where the temperature is high and does not change much

●The farrowing pen must be designed in such a way that the sow cannot lie on top of the piglets. Newborn piglets are very sensitive to cold, draughts, wet bedding and floors as well as sudden changes in temperature. Ensure therefore that everything possible is done to prevent piglets from being exposed to these conditions.

Management Piglets from Birth to Weaning

●A farrowing crate for the sows and a creep area for the piglets (see the chapter on housing) should be provided to prevent or reduce deaths as a result of piglets being trampled by the sow or as a result of cold, draughts, etc.

●Make sure that all piglets suckle a teat as soon as possible after birth to take in colostrum. The first milk produced by the sow immediately after the piglets are born is known as colostrum. It plays an important role in the protection of the piglets against diseases during the first few weeks of their lives.

●If a sow has more piglets than the number of teats she has, the extra piglets can be placed with another sow with a smaller number of piglets. This can only be done if the piglets of the sows are born within a few days of each other.

●Sometimes a sow does not accept her own piglets, usually as a result of birth shock (often seen in sows having their first litter of piglets). If this happens the piglets can be taken away from the sow for a few hours. If she still refuses to accept them they should be placed with another sow if possible. Sows that do not accept their piglets or bite them, must rather be slaughtered.

●If another sow is not available to rear the rejected piglets, they can be reared artificially. It does, however, take time and hard work, because the piglets do not always grow and perform well. The following milk combinations can be used to rear piglets artificially:- 2,5 l of fresh cow’s milk – 150 ml of fresh cream – 125 ml of glucose – 1 beaten egg OR- 4,5 l of fresh cow’s milk – 0,5 l of cream

●Feed the piglets small quantities every 2 to 3 hours. Start by giving 50 ml each time they are fed, so that each piglet takes in 350 ml per day. Gradually increase the quantity to about 100 ml so that each piglet gets 750 ml at three weeks of age. Provide creep meal in a shallow dish or on the floor from two weeks onwards to encourage the piglets to eat meal as soon as possible. Fresh, clean water must always be available in a shallow dish. The piglets should drink water as soon as possible.

Management Specific treatment of piglets

Umbilical cord

Disinfect the umbilical cord after birth with an iodine solution or any other suitable disinfectant to prevent bacterial infection.

Tusk clippingPiglets have very sharp temporary tusks (or teeth) at birth which must be clipped to prevent injuries to the teats of the sows during suckling. Use a tusk clipper and do not clip the teeth too close to the gums. The very sharp temporary tusks (or teeth) of piglets should be clipped Iron injectionsThe milk of the sow does not provide enough iron to piglets that are reared on concrete floors. Piglets must, therefore be injected with iron when they are three to seven days old to prevent them from becoming anaemic which results in poor appetite and growth until they start eating a meal.

Caring for Pigs

In order to handle the piglets as little as possible clip the tusks and give the iron injection at the same time, about three days after birth. Injectable iron preparations for piglets can be bought and injected into the neck or buttocks Water and feed. Clean, fresh water placed at the back of the pen where the piglets will learn to dung is very important. The sooner they start to drink water the better. Two to three weeks after birth they will start to nibble on feed placed away from the water near the creep area.

Creep feed is expensive and they will not eat much before weaning, therefore only small quantities of feed must be given from two to three weeks of age. Increase the daily quantity gradually when they start eating to prevent wastage.

Sow management

Good management is necessary to produce a maximum number of pigs that can be sold per sow in one year’s time at a maximum profit for the farmer. The management skills of the farmer determine to a large extent how many piglets are reared, how long it takes to rear them to market weight and the cost involved.

A farmer with good management skills will:

●Feed his pigs correctly, which means that he will have to know what and how much the pigs must be fed.

●Build pig houses that are efficient and planned in such a way that management is made easier.

●See to it that the pig houses and pigs are kept clean under hygienic conditions to prevent and control diseases.

●Use good breeding material that will breed pigs that are able to grow fast, have carcasses with well-developed muscles (meat) with as little fat as possible and use their feed efficiently.

●Supervise daily and keep records so that it will be easy to make sure that everything that needs to be done is carried out.

Pregnant sows

Sows come on heat every 21 days. A sow served by a boar is not always pregnant. The sow must be brought to a boar again 19 days after she has been served for three to seven days to make sure that she becomes pregnant. Sows that come on heat for a second time should again be served. Sows that regularly come on heat after service by a boar must rather be slaughtered.

Pregnant sows must be free of internal parasites. Parasite infection will affect the health of the sow as well as her feed intake. The sows can also infect the piglets. Parasite eggs that are excreted in the dung can be eaten by the piglets. Deworm pregnant sows 21 to 28 days before they have their piglets (piglets are born 116 days after service). Management during farrowing

The farrowing house – Management

●Piglets have a low resistance to infections. The farrowing house must preferably be situated some distance from the other pig houses and a high standard of hygiene must be maintained.

●Wash and scrub the farrowing pen properly every time the sow and piglets are removed. Disinfect the pen and leave it to dry for a period of two to three days before placing a sow in it.

●When a sow and her piglets are in a pen it must be kept as dry as possible. Use as little water as possible for daily cleaning. Dirty and wet bedding must be removed daily.

The piglets must be kept warm in a dry, draught-free creep area such as a box The sow

●Wash and disinfect the sow before putting her in the farrowing pen four to five days before the piglets are born. Young female pigs (glits) that are about to farrow for the first time, must get used to their pen. Therefore, put them in the farrowing crate for a few hours per day from about 10 days before farrowing so that they can become accustomed to it.

●To prevent sows from becoming constipated during this period, green feed such as lucerne or a high-fibre feed, such as bran can be fed. Feed 1 kg bran when they are put in the farrowing crate for the four days before farrowing.


●The sow becomes restless and starts to “make a nest” with the bedding in the crate when she is ready to farrow.

●Swelling of the vulva is a sign that she is ready to give birth.

●Supervision during the birth process is necessary, especially when it is a sow giving birth for the first time. When the piglets are born, make sure that they do not get entangled in birth membranes and that they do not suffocate in mucus or amniotic fluid.

● Keep the sow calm so that she does not trample the piglets to death.

●Piglets usually break the umbilical cord which joins them to the sow. If weak piglets do not break the cord themselves it is advisable to break the cord with the thumb and forefinger.During the first week after farrowing it is important to pay attention to the following:

●Check that the sow is not constipated.

●The afterbirth must be discharged from the sow as soon as possible (within one to two days).

●The sow should not develop a fever as a result of infection.

●Look out for milk fever during the first few (4 to 6) days after farrowing.

●Look out for the development of mastitis that results in hard and inflamed (red) teats.

●Mastitis and a lack of milk (agalactia) can cause the piglets to die of hunger. Immediate attention by a veterinarian is therefore necessary.

Management during lactation

●There is a large difference in the environmental temperature requirements of sows and piglets. Sows must feel comfortable. Very high temperatures will cause the sows to eat less and lose weight. Lactating sow (sows with piglets) will produce less milk for the piglets so that the piglets will grow slower. If they lose too much weight they will also take longer to come on heat after weaning, which means a delay before the next pregnancy period.

●High temperatures are, however, needed for the piglets, particularly for the first seven to ten days after birth. A dry, draught-free creep area (or box) where they can lie, is therefore very important (see the chapter on housing).

●Diarrhoea can be a problem in piglets. If the quantity of feed fed to the sow is increased too soon after farrowing, it can cause diarrhoea. If the piglets get diarrhoea, do not feed the sow for a day. If the condition does not improve a bacterial infection can be the reason. The piglets should then be treated with antibiotics.

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Management Piglets from Birth to Weaning

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