Baby Pig Management - Birth to Weaning - eXtension
Keeping sows and raising piglets is generally left to professional breeders. I wanted to experience the whole life cycle, building a herd that included a mama and papa, . Your experience is typical of the views of people who don't respect our family farms Meet Blonnie: A best friend, always and forever. Mother pigs spend most of their lives in tiny “gestation” crates, which are so animals produces as much fecal waste as a city of 50, people. How do pigs get along with dogs and cats, other pets, other pigs and people? In fact, a pig without piggy friends can become bored or depressed, which could pig has a wonderful relationship with her people, her other needs must be met.
So I decided to start with a sow. Piggie, as I named her, was a chocolate brown duroc-Yorkshire mix, with a mane of black hair running down her back. She was beautiful, all pounds of her. The economics sounded promising: Pigs average about 10 babies per litter, so for the price of a few weaners I would end up with 10 pigs, plus a mama that I could breed again the next year, and the next, and the next.
As with my goatsI would just rent a boar when the time came. That day never arrived, however, as my time as a pig farmer lasted just one stressful year. Piggie she started making a nest back in the woods.
I had a luxurious space set up for her in the barn with nice soft bedding and a private corner where she could labor in peace. But she seemed to prefer a more rustic environment, piling a heap of pointy branches from a cedar tree I cut down. Piggie was worried about. Early one June morning I found her next to her brush pile in the early stages of labor. I was in graduate school at the time, so I sped home to check on her between classes and each time found a few more piglets squirming around with their eyes closed.
When I got home at the end of the day I was lucky enough to see number 10 be born. Piglets are tinier than you would imagine and the birth of each one happens surprisingly fast — with a single grunt the whole thing squirts right out. Number 10 was an auburn-striped runt that reminded me of a little chipmunk.
I decided then and there that this one was too cute to become bacon. I named him Red. So I wanted to try to handle the piglets as much as possible from birth in hopes they would be easier to approach later. That was definitely not going to happen. The piglets would squeal bloody murder every time I came near their nest, and if I got too close Ms.
Piggie would let out a roar. After she charged me a couple times I decided to keep my distance. A couple months later I was walking through the herd when a few of the pigs started squabbling over food about 50 feet away. At that very moment I happened to be walking right by Ms.
She turned and bit me on the leg, which felt how I imagine a one-ton vise would feel if someone clamped it down onto your calf. I sprang over the fence like an Olympic pole vaulter, and later, while sitting in the shade sullenly icing my bruised calf, I realized there are some valid reasons that pig farmers prefer to purchase weaned piglets minus their mothers. The extra heat source assures the piglet of immediate warmth following birth.
The key is to have the supplemental heat directed behind the sow before farrowing and until farrowing is completed. If there is no extra heat present behind the sow during farrowing, position disadvantaged piglets in a heated area immediately after birth. Colostrum Intake The first milk, colostrum, is rich in disease-preventing immunogloblins; the very first colostrum is the richest and best, because the quality of colostrum declines over time.
Strong, early-born piglets get to the udder hours before their later-born litter mates and go from teat to teat taking the best colostrum. Thus, disadvantaged piglets often need assistance to obtain enough colostrum. Below are some methods to ensure piglets obtain an adequate dose of colostrum. Prevent chilling so piglets stay warm and active. This involves removing part of the litter for one to two hour periods the first 12 hours after farrowing.
For best results, remove the largest, strongest piglets for a one to two hour period during the morning and again in the afternoon, leaving the small piglets on the sow to nurse. Give the sow U. Be sure to hold the large piglets in a box fitted with supplemental heat to prevent chilling. Use this technique to ensure high colostrum intake before crossfostering. Collect colostrum from the sow or obtain cow colostrum and give it to piglets via a stomach tube or a syringe.
To milk a sow, remover all her piglets for one hour. Then give her U. Cow colostrum also can be used and may more easily obtained.
Either type of colostrum can be frozen in ice cube trays for future use. How ever, do not thaw the cubes in a microwave oven, because rapid thawing reduces the immunological value of the colostrum. Stomach tubes can be made from model airplane fuel tubing or by using a urinary catheter size 14 French available from medical supply stores. Give the piglet ml of colostrum once or twice during the first 24 hours of life. Crossfostering The lowest piglet mortality is observed in high birthweight litters with low within-litter piglet weight variation.
Crossfostering is the most effective way to reduce within-litter piglet weight variation. Crossfostering should be practiced carefully to achieve best results. A good crossfostering program makes milk supplies more available to all piglets and does not compromise the health status of the piglets in segregated early weaning SEW programs.
Below are important tips to ensure good results from crossfostering. Ensure piglets that will be crossfostered consume colostrum from their dam. Allow piglets to remain with their dam for at least four to six hours following birth before they are crossfostered. Otherwise, it is likely the fostered piglets will not consume an adequate amount of colostrum, especially if they are fostered to a sow which farrowed one to two days previously.
Crossfoster piglets before they are 24 to 48 hours old. Piglets establish teat fidelity preference for a teat within the first days after birth and will almost always suckle at the same teat or pair of teats until weaning.
It is an advantage for piglets to establish teat fidelity, because it reduces competition and fighting at the udder. When teat fidelity is not established, piglets fight more throughout lactation and have poorer weight gains.
Crossfostering after teat fidelity is established is disruptive and induces fighting between resident and fostered piglets. An exception to this rule is the fostering of one of a pair of piglets continuing to dispute a single teat location.
In SEW programs where maximum weaning age is important or in PRRS-positive herds, crossfostering piglets after they are hours old places them at risk of coming into contact with a nurse sow shedding pathogens against which the piglets received no colostral immunity. Therefore, disease may pass from the nurse sow to the piglets. In these instances, be sure the weaning age of the fostered piglets does not exceed the maximum weaning age set for the farm.
Choose small, docile sows with small, slender nipples of medium length to raise below- average-weight piglets. Observe for the presence of disease problems in the farrowing quarters before crossfostering. This is important to reduce the spread of disease. Avoid moving a healthy piglet to a diseased litter or vise-versa.
Transfer males rather than females when replacement animals are retained from within the herd. Otherwise, accuracy of female selection may be reduced and gilts reared by foster dams have poorer reproductive performance.
- 5 Things I Learned the Hard Way While Raising Pigs
Processing Piglets Processing piglets includes clipping teeth, clipping and treating the umbilical cord, iron administration, tail docking, identification, treating splaylegged piglets, providing supplemental nutrients, and castration. These skills can be performed in different ways and in the sequence of personal preference. Some producers elect not to perform all these procedures, or they prefer to delay some of them for three to four days to reduce stress on the very fragile one-day-old piglet.
Those who operate pasture farrowing systems tend to do all their processing of piglets during the first day after farrowing, because the piglets are easier to catch. Equipment Have all the equipment you need to process piglets arranged in a hand-held carrier which can be attached to a pig cart preferably on wheels. Supplies and equipment needed to process piglets as described in this fact sheet are: Disease Transfer While processing piglets, take steps to minimize transfer of disease.
This can be done by processing sick litters last, cleaning and disinfecting the box or cart you use to transport piglets when you finish for the day or before you move to another room to process, and dipping instruments into a disinfectant after you have processed each piglet. Be sure to change the disinfectant daily or after processing every tenth litter, whichever comes first.
Personal Safety Be careful when removing piglets from the farrowing quarters. Sows often try to bite or grab you to protect their litter.
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Always have the farrowing crate or another sturdy partition between you and the sow before you attempt to pick up a piglet. Holding the Piglet Hold the piglet so you can cut the teeth, tail, and umbilical cord and administer iron in very rapid succession without changing your grip.
For a right-handed person: Beware not to choke the piglet by pressing the remainder of your fingers into its throat.
Dangle the piglet in front of you, and it will struggle less than if you pull it against you. You can also sit and support its weight on your knees if necessary. Umbilical Cord Care The umbilical cord, which enables the fetus to obtain nutrients from the dam and expel wastes during pregnancy, usually does not require much attention.
While it is possible that bacteria and viruses can travel up the cord after the piglet is born and cause infection or that piglets can bleed excessively from it, these situations are rare. Seldom do newborn piglets need to have their umbilical cords tied or clamped. Sometimes newborn piglets bleed excessively immediately after the umbilical cord breaks, especially if it breaks shorter than four to five inches. The loss of blood may cause the piglet to perform poorly or die. If the cord is not dried up but fresh at the time of processing, cut it off with disinfected side cutters.
If the umbilical cord has been tied, you can leave about one inch. Leave three or four inches if the umbilical cord has not been tied; check for bleeding. Apply iodine antiseptic by swabbing, spraying, or dipping. The dip method requires placing the umbilical cord inside the antiseptic bottle and shaking gently. Any of these methods is satisfactory, but be sure to get good coverage of the umbilical cord.
Baby Pig Management - Birth to Weaning
Use disinfected side cutters and a fresh iodine solution changed daily if dipping or swabbing, since iodine solutions break down in the presence of organic matter.
A contaminated iodine solution might actually cause an infection. If the cord is dry and shriveled, it is not necessary to treat.
Just cut it off, leaving one to three inches of cord. Needle Teeth Clipping The newborn piglet has eight needle teeth, sometimes referred to as wolf teeth, located on the sides of the upper and lower jaws. Some producers have stopped teeth clipping entirely while others do it as needed and they have not observed any serious problems. It seems less necessary to clip teeth of piglets nursing well-milking sows. However, in cases when sows are not milking well, or if greasy pig disease is a problem, teeth clipping appears necessary for optimum results.
Use sharp cutters without nicks in the blades. Otherwise, teeth will be crushed, which could lead to infection. Also, replace side cutters that have jaws that do not meet squarely.
Avoid ordinary wire cutters as they often are not made with the quality of steel necessary to cut teeth adequately. Cut away one-half of the tooth. Do not remove the entire tooth and avoid crushing or breaking it. Otherwise, an infection is possible or the piglet may not nurse well. This will likely make it difficult for the piglet to nurse.
Cut the teeth off flat and not at an angle. Piglets are not as apt to cause skin injuries when they fight if the teeth are cut off flat.
Wear glasses or goggles to protect your eyes from flying pieces of teeth. Hold the piglet as described previously, and place sterilized side cutters over both the lower needle teeth on one side of the mouth with the flat side of the cutter to the gum line.
Place the side cutters parallel to the gum, and cut off one-half of the two lower teeth at once Figure 4. Turn the side cutters over and cut the two upper teeth Figure 5.
Repeat on the other side of the mouth. Tail Docking The undocked tail is a very convenient target for tail biting or cannibalism. This leads to injury and possibly infection. To reduce tail biting, dock or cut off the tail of newborn piglets within about 24 hours after birth.
Tail docking is usually required by purchasers of early weaned or feeder pigs. It should be done within about 24 hours after birth because it is least stressful on the piglet for these reasons: However, some producers delay docking the tails of male piglets in the litter until castration.
The males are easier to find in a litter if their tails have not been docked. Dock the tail about one inch or width of your thumb from the place where the tail joins the body of the piglet Figure 6. If too much tail is left, tail biting might still occur. Occasionally, a tail will bleed excessively. If this occurs, tie it off using the same method as for umbilical cords.
Use sterilized side cutters most commonly useda chicken debeaker, or a special heated cutter to cauterize the cut tail.
Do not use a very sharp instrument, such as a scalpel, because excess bleeding may occur. To cauterize properly, cut the tail slowly so the hot blade has time to cauterize the tail as you cut.
Cauterizing leaves a cleaner wound that bleeds less than when side cutters are used. Apply an antiseptic to the wound. The tail should be completely healed within days. Supplemental Iron Iron is necessary to prevent anemia in piglets. With no access to soil, iron deficiency anemia may result within days after birth. Iron can be administered either by injection or orally. Injection is preferred because iron given orally is not as well absorbed by piglets, thus reducing the quantity of iron that reaches critical tissues.
In addition, oral iron may not be absorbed in piglets with diarrhea. Administer iron to piglets while they are one to three days old. Give piglets mg of iron either as one injection while they are one to three days old or in two mg injections—one between one and three days of age and again at weaning.
Read the label carefully to learn the iron concentration of the product you are using. Do not overdose, as too much iron can be toxic. Using a clean syringe, withdraw iron solution from its container, using a 14 or 16 gauge large diameter needle which is left inserted in bottle.
The idea is to avoid using a contaminated needle to draw iron from the bottle. Otherwise, foreign matter and pathogens will likely be introduced into the bottle. Some producers decide to change needles after they have finished giving iron injections to each litter. In this case, it is not necessary to use a different needle to draw iron from the bottle.
If there are air bubbles in the syringe, point the needle up, tap the syringe and push the air out. Inject iron into the neck muscle just off the midline Figure 7. Iron should not be injected into the ham. The injection should be given in the neck because of possible sciatic nerve damage, scarring, and also, because of residual iron stain in the carcass of market hogs if it is given in the ham.
If the injection site is dirty, wipe it clean with an antiseptic before injecting. Be careful not to inject into the spinal area. Insert the needle perpendicular to site and inject. Consider placing a finger on the site momentarily to help prevent or reduce runback if necessary.
Be sure to inject the iron into the muscle, not just beneath the skin. For convenience, some producers mix various injectables together with iron and inject the solution into piglets while they are processed.
This practice is not recommended unless prescribed by a veterinarian, because it is possible that the products could be rendered ineffective and possibly toxic to piglets. Piglet Identification In some pork producing operations, it is important that piglets be permanently identified at birth.
Options for permanent identification included ear notching or tattooing. Ear notching is the more common method. Each piglet must have a unique ear notch or tattoo in seedstock herds because it is a requirement for pedigree and performance records.
It is not necessary that each piglet have an individual number in operations where all hogs except replacement gilts are marketed for slaughter. Each litter, or all piglets in a farrowing group, or only gilts to be considered for replacements might be ear notched or tattooed at birth with the same patterns. The most common ear notching system is shown in Figure 8.
It is the identification system required by the purebred swine associations in the U. Several modifications of the system exist. Use a V-ear notcher designed for piglets to ear notch. Some producers use a hole puncher to place a hole in one ear for identification. Firmly hold the ear you are notching and place the portion of the ear you are notching well back into the jaws of the notcher Figure 9.
Notches that are too shallow may fill in, heal over, and be difficult to read. Leave at least one-fourth inch between notches. Do not make notches too close to the tip of the ear, as these can be torn off. When you have notches on both top and bottom of the ear near the tip, position them so that the deep points of the notches are offset from each other.
When making notches on top of the ear close to the head, uncurl the ear with your fingers so you can make it deep into the cartilage. Otherwise, it might be unreadable after it heals. Use tattooing pliers designed for small animals to tattoo piglets.
Apply the tattoo to the backside of the ear so it can be read easily as the piglet grows. Be sure to apply even pressure across the entire tattoo area i.
Avoid tattooing piglets with color on their ears, because the tattoo will be hard to read. Green ink seems to work the best. Supplemental Nutrients Many liveborn piglets die because they starve. Disadvantaged piglets are most affected because they cannot compete well for milk and they are most vulnerable to chilling. Producers can improve their survival rate by giving a supplemental source of nutrients the first few hours of life.
Provide disadvantaged piglets with 10 to 15 ml of milk every six to 12 hours during the first day or two following farrowing. The economic benefit of providing supplemental milk to piglets depends primarily on the preweaning survival rate of piglets in the herd and on the anticipated profit from the piglet.
It is critical that the first dose be colostrum, especially if the piglet has not suckled. Colostrum from the dam is best, but obtaining it is time consuming.
Commercial milk replacers have proven effective after the piglets receive an adequate dose of colostrum. Some people use products containing medium chain fatty acids MCT in lieu of milk, but research results on their effectiveness are mixed. Use a stomach tube or a syringe to give the supplemental milk to the piglets.
Splaylegged Piglets Splaylegged piglets appear to be normal except when they attempt to stand, their hind legs and sometimes front legs extend sideways. The condition appears to be a congenital disease with a higher incidence in litters with a day or shorter gestation period. Also, a slippery floor in the farrowing quarters can be an important predisposing factor. Nutrition does not appear to play a role. The mortality rate in piglets where only the back legs are splayed can be reduced by taping the legs soon after birth to prevent them from extending sideways.
Piglets that are splayed in both their front and back legs often are not worth trying to save. Use either elastic wrapping tape, adhesive tape, or duct tape. Obtain elastic tape from medical supply stores or veterinary offices and adhesive tape from sporting goods store or pharmacies. Apply tape to the rear legs allowing a two-inch gap between legs so the piglet can stand properly. Avoid wrapping the tape too tightly as to restrict circulation of blood and be sure to remove the tape a few days later.
Castration Castration, the surgical removal of the two testicles, is a routine management practice for male piglets destined for slaughter. The testicles produce sperm and the male hormone, testosterone. Pork from boars, or uncastrated male piglets at slaughter weight, may have an odor during cooking that is very offensive to many people. There are various ways to castrate piglets. The position of the animal during surgery and the method and degree of restraint are dictated by the age and size of the animal.
The best time to castrate a piglet is when it is four to 14 days of age. Piglets can be successfully castrated when they are less than four days old; however, one of the major disadvantages of castrating very young piglets is that scrotal hernias are more difficult to detect and the testicles may not have descended. Examine each piglet carefully before castrating to identify those with a scrotal hernia.
A piglet with a scrotal hernia has a loop of intestine in its scrotum. Hold the piglet upright so the scrotum is down to see if the scrotum is uniform in size, or hold the piglet with its head down and squeeze the back legs together to lift the testicles. If there is an enlargement in one or both halves of the scrotum, the piglet probably has a hernia. Do not castrate the piglet unless you are trained to repair hernias.
Sometimes the testicle is removed before a scrotal hernia is discovered. If this happens, the herniation must be repaired by suturing immediately. Most scrotal hernias are genetic in origin.
Do not keep replacement animals from any litter in which one or more piglets was herniated. If one or both testicles are not found, the piglet may be a cryptorchid. This means that the testicle s failed to descend through the inguinal canal from the abdomen during development. When this condition is noticed, ear notch or mark the piglet and make a record of it.
Often, the testicle s will descend to a normal position as the piglet grows. The piglet should be castrated after the testicle presents itself. If one testicle has descended at the time of castration, it should be removed. Use either a surgical knife or side cutter to castrate. The surgical knife can be either a 12 hooked blade or straight blade.
The instrument of choice must be sharp and disinfected. If the scrotum is dirty, clean it and surrounding area with a cotton swab soaked in a mild disinfectant. Push up on both testicles and make an incision through the skin toward the tail Figure Be sure to cut low in the scrotal sac to ensure good drainage.
It does not matter if you cut through the white membrane or not. Pop the testicles through the incision and pull on them slightly.
Pull each testicle out pressing your thumb against the pelvis of the piglet. Otherwise, you may cause a hernia. Also, cut any cord or tissue protruding from the incision and spray the wound with an antiseptic. There is little or no bleeding with this method. Hold the piglet between your legs with the belly outward. Use your index finger, or whichever is comfortable to use, to push up on one testicle to make it more pronounced.
The resulting fold of skin is where the incision is made Figure 11a. Position disinfected side cutters about two thirds of the way into the fold and make a cut directly through the scrotal tissue right of the midline. Make a similar incision through the scrotal tissue, but to the left of the midline.
Pop the testicles out through the incisions by pinching your thumb and index finger together Figure 11b. Press very firmly with your index finger against the pelvis of the piglet in front of the scrotum and pull the testicles out with the side cutters Figure 11c. Care is taken to avoid cutting through the cords beneath the testicle.
Remove any loose cord tissue left outside the incision. Nothing but the disinfected side cutters touches the exposed tissue. Spray the wound with an antiseptic. Castration Method for Two People Using a Knife One person holds the piglet by the rear legs while another does the castrating.