In the previous issue we covered the aspects of housing and nutrition of young breeding animals. This issue focuses on the newborn piglet, since the development of the animals in this phase (from birth until weaning) is a fundamentally important part of pork production.
The number of live born piglets has increased significantly as a result of genetic improvement (in the case of hyperprolific breeds it can reach or even exceed 16-17 piglets per litter). However, high litter size raises a number of new problems: litters are less uniform and there are more piglets born with low birthweights. The sow herself and cross fostering are not enough to raise these large litters, additional technological and nutritional solutions are needed. The products of the PigCare Piglet Program range have been developed with these aspects in mind, to fulfill the needs of the modern pig breeds based on our own experimental results. Our products Malac panír – a drying agent for piglets, Cremolit – an electrolyte solution, Platino Milk+ a milk replacer and the Platino Baby piglet feed are all aimed at maximizing the number of piglets that reach the age of weaning.
Hygiene is one of the most important aspects when working in the farrowing unit. The impact of hygiene can’t be stressed enough. Below are a few of the most important aspects:
- placement and continuous use of hand and boot disinfectants,
- using gloves during farrowing,
- continuous disinfection of tools used in the farrowing unit (e.g. emasculator), etc.
Restlessness, milk dripping from the teats, swollen vulva and visible uterine contractions on the flank are all signs that farrowing is about to start. Newborn piglets need a dry and warm environment, this is why the farrowing pen and most importantly the piglet warming pad have to be covered with litter powder (Malac panír). This not only leaves the environment dry but also helps the piglets dry up. This is of utmost importance because the piglets lose a lot of energy while “getting rid” of the placenta. With the use of Malac panír, this energy loss will be significantly lower. Another advantage is the antibacterial effect due to the essential oils, which contributes to improving farrowing hygiene.
Sources of infection should always be minimized. This means that, for example, the manure of the sow must be removed immediately (so the piglets are not contaminated with it) and the umbilical cord must be cut with due care. This can be done using an emasculator. The umbilical cord should be cut short enough that the piglet can not step on it, and it should be disinfected by dipping in gentian violet solution.
Colostrum is the first and most important “feed” of the piglets. It’s not only a source of nutrition, it plays an important role in building the immunity of the newborn animals because of the immune materials it contains. This is why it is so important that all piglets have access to colostrum within 3 to 4 hours of the end of the farrowing. This might be limited by the number of teats in the case of large litters. This is when applying split suckling can help. This means that only the same number of piglets are left under the sow as many functional teats she has. The remaining piglets are put in a crate on the warming pad and are changed every hour. It is important to leave the lightest piglets under the sow continuously and only take away the larger piglets.
In many cases the sow does not produce enough milk. We have developed the product Platino Milk+ milk replacer to provide additional nutrition to the piglets. Our primary objective was to develop a formula with a composition as similar to sow’s milk as possible, but we also put emphasis on making it user friendly. Specific ingredients such as probiotics, MCFA and immunoglobulins support and help maintain the gut flora while preventing the growth of pathogenic bacteria (e.g. E. coli, Salmonella and Clostridia) and strenghthening the immune system. Our product can easily be homogenised in lukewarm water (40-42 °C) which makes it easy to use. It is recommended to prepare only an amount the piglets can consume within a short time and administration should be repeated 3 to 5 times per day. We recommend using the milk replacer until 10 days of age, but it can be used until weaning for cross fostered litters or litters with lightweight piglets. It can also be used in the nursery as a supplement to groups of light piglets for at least 1 week after weaning. Administration, however, should be stopped if diarrhoea occurs. In this case the cause should be eliminated and treated, while also providing fluid- and electrolyte therapy. Crémolit electrolyte solution is a product specifically designed for the above mentioned problem, its composition is optimal in providing not only the necessary electrolytes but also an easily absorbable source of energy. Its probiotics help restore the gut microflora, while its vitamin and organic microelement content supports the general health and the immune system of the piglets.
One of the key elements to successful weaning is a piglet that has learned to eat and digest solid feed. To achieve this, it is recommended to offer the piglets good quality creep feed as early as 8–12 days of age. Here also, it is very important to feed the piglets smaller amounts multiple times a day, getting them used to solid feed by only offering a handful or two for the first few days. Feeding times for the piglets should be timed after the sow has eaten: baby or prestarter feed should be distributed when the sow is lying down. Our on farm experience shows that Platino Zero prestarter is readily accepted by the piglets from 8–10 days of age. This product is the most important element of our ZnO free concept, it was developed to establish a healthy gut flora in young piglets.
Cross fostering is an inevitable part of modern farrowing management. There are several ways to do this:
- First parity sows should always have 14+1 large piglets to nurse.
- Second or third parity sows with small teats should be chosen for light piglets (never put small piglets under first or fifth parity sows).
- Fifth parity sows should receive large piglets for every functional teat +1.
- Litters with light piglets should be left maximum at a size of functional teats +2.
The farrowing unit is one of the most important elements in pork production because only the piglets that remain alive will become fatteners. One of our colleagues – who, sadly, has passed away – used to always say: “If we have piglets, we have everything”. This remains true throughout the changes pig farming has gone experienced in the past years.
Senior consultant, swine
Bonafarm-Bábolna Takarmány Ltd.