We've reached our fourth part on preventing piglet mortality from farrowing to weaning, and this will conclude normal farrowing operations. Our focus until now has been on getting to farrowing and the immediate needs the first day or so after farrowing. This piece will cover the management needed to lower the 18% piglet moralities between birth and weaning:
Now that we've got hooves on the ground, it's time to take care of some of the things that can cause piglet mortalities after birth: disease and crushing. Once farrowing is completed, clean up the farrowing pen, removing afterbirth and waste that may promote disease and keep the pens clean while the sow and piglets are in it. Monitor the sow's temperature on 12 hour intervals for the first three days, as a temperature rise above 104 degrees F shows the presence of illness or infection, including mastitis, metritis and agalactia, collectively known as MMA.
Crushing injuries are common at this stage, and providing a creep area for the piglets to get out of the sow's way is helpful in preventing losses. Keeping the pen well lit also helps, as more crushing losses happen at night, when the sow cannot see if her piglets are in the way when she lies down. This is a good time to perform ear notching, which will help you figure when animals reach market weight as well as helping you select breeding stock that came from the best litters. Castration can also take place at this time up to one month in age.
This is also a good time to figure out which piglets will need supplemental milk or feed. Piglets with a low birth weight of two pounds or under have a 42% survival rate unaided, with progressively increasing survival rates to 82% at three pounds birth weight. By supplementing piglets under three pounds at birth, many of these fatalities can be prevented. Provide creep feed for all piglets starting at one week of age, placing it down several times a day to keep it fresh, in shallow pans or even on the ground.
Iron supplementation is necessary for piglets to avoid problems with anemia. This can be provided by supplying uncontaminated soil for them to root through, providing additional iron as a feed supplement or by giving intramuscular injections of 150-200 mg in the neck or foreleg; injections into the hams can cause abscesses in your prime meat cuts, lowering their value.
Scours is a common issue with piglets and they are most susceptible between 1-4 days of age, at three weeks and at weaning. Avoiding extra stress such as deworming, vaccinations and castration during these times. If you see diarrhea symptoms, provide medication orally as soon as possible to help straighten the piglet's system out. Keeping the piglets in a clean, dry, warm and draft-free area is also beneficial in avoiding scours.
Weaning can happen at any point the piglets reach 15 pounds and are feeding well, typically around five weeks of age or so. Much like scours, avoiding extra stress at this time helps prevent losses. Piglets can be weaned as early as three weeks, but will require intensive management and monitoring to avoid weaning issues. Placing piglets to be weaned in pens with up to 20-25 other piglets and space of 3-4 square feet per piglet will work well.
Image courtesy of Jon Pinder.