Basic early pig care
Farms that do not place enough labor & focus in this part of the farm, largely fall short on achieving the farms full potential.
Dr. Laura Bruner explains why time spent and labor dedicated attending farrowing sows is invaluable for a herd’s success. When you stop and think, the hours leading-up to farrowing, the farrowing process itself and the first days post-farrow influence so much of a farm’s productivity.
- The way piglets are started post-birth effects prewean mortality
- Often, >70% of sow mortality occurs in the days leading up to and a few days post-farrowing
- Stillborn rate is directly tied to number of attended farrowings
The goal each day is to:
1) Get pigs out alive
Farms should be staffed so that somebody knowledgeable on farrowing sows is in attendance at all times, during operating hours, to assist farrowing sows.
Sows should be checked on every 20 to 30 minutes as labor is progressing.
At each 20 minute interval we can de- cide if a sow is in trouble and needs assistance.
Commonly, if a sow hasn’t progressed with a new pig from one round to the next, a check for stuck piglets should be made.
The reality is that to achieve this frequency of farrowing attendance, one person should be assigned to 15-20 actively farrowing sows.
On a larger day, with more farrowing, additional people should be in place to attend all farrowing sows.
2) Get pigs warmed up
Pigs that become chilled shortly after birth have a difficult time seeking out colostrum, regaining body temperature and are a higher risk of being a prewean death.
Infrared imaging of piglets at the time of birth show that it doesn’t take much time in a cool/drafty corner of a crate to lose significant body temperature.
Consider the following:
- Is there enough heat-lamp capacity for farrowing sows? Two lamps for farrowing sows helps reduce the chance of cold areas.
- Is there a process to dry-off pigs during the 20-minute rounds? Towels or drying-powder, like Quick Dry help dry the pig to reduce loss of body heat.
3) Get pigs full of colostrum
Once your pig is warm and dry, it needs to get “plugged” into a nipple to get colostrum.
Colostrum provides energy, warmth, and antibodies to fight off virus and bacteria. This colostrum can only be absorbed by the pig in the first 8 hours following birth.
We know that the last ½ of a litter born, especially litters with a large number born alive are at a disadvantage on receiving adequate colostrum.
Practice common sense when drying newborn piglets – if a recently born piglet has latched onto mom and is nursing, do not pull them away to dry, leave alone and allow colostrum intake to continue.
Think about large litters overnight or intensely farrowing several sows during the day – there are a lot of last half of the litter born that aren’t going to get as much colostrum as the first born did if we don’t intervene. Split-suckling and wet-sorting are both strategies to help ensure we get the most piglets with colostrum in the shortest amount of time.
Obviously, mom needs to also be a focus during this critical time. Can your farrowing team recognize sows that are in need of help?
- Poor feed and water intake post farrowing
- Abnormal post-farrow behavior; not getting up to eat or drink or laying on belly
- Does the sow know where her water is located
- Fever status and farm protocol to treat fever sows
Putting labor towards early sow and piglet care can have a positive impact on overall production. The impact of this time can easily be measured by monitoring stillborns, prewean mortality and sow death loss.
Welcome Erin Kettelkamp and Ethan Spronk to our veterinarian staff!
Hello! My name is Erin, and I am excited to join the Swine Vet Center team in June after receiving my Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Illinois! I grew up on a small farm near Kaneville, IL, which instilled my love of animal agriculture. I honed my passion for swine medicine during summer internship and externships opportunities at several major swine companies. While in veterinary school, I enjoyed working on biosecurity research projects and presenting my findings at the American Association of Swine Veterinary conferences over the last several years. I am eager to begin my career in swine consulting, and work with the industry’s best producers!
My name is Ethan Spronk and I grew up on a swine and row crop farm in Southwest Minnesota. I studied Animal Science at South Dakota State University and continued education at the University of Minnesota graduating with a DVM in 2015. I moved to Washington, Iowa to work for Eichelberger Farms for 6 years as their head veterinarian before joining the Swine Vet Center team in May 2021. My wife Elizabeth and I will continue to reside in Southeast Iowa where she works as a mixed animal veterinarian. In my free time, I enjoy wood working, hunting and farming with family.
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