Good care and management in the farrowing house has a major influence on the number of liveborn piglets that are weaned and on how well they perform in later stages of production. While birthweight is a big factor in terms of piglet survivability, sound management practices can help increase your pigs-weaned average significantly.
The primary purpose of crossfostering is to reduce the weight variation within the litter and to more evenly match the number of piglets with the sow’s ability to raise them (determined by the number of functional teats). A good crossfostering program makes milk supplies more available to all piglets and without compromising the health status of the piglets in segregated early weaning (SEW) programs. Here are important tips on 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 that 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. 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 24-48 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.
Some producers have successfully transferred older, small piglets to nurse sows following early weaning of the nurse sow’s litter. In these instances, the weaning age of the fostered piglets should not exceed the maximum weaning age set for the farm.
Prevent Exposure to Diseases
Preventing piglets from encountering disease agents (primary prevention) involves five basic areas: 1. Source and handling of primary and replacement breeding stock; 2. Rules governing movement of people, vehicles, materials, and pigs; 3. Layout of the farm; 4. Location of a new farm; and 5. Cleaning the farrowing quarters and the sow.
Producers should divert more resources to primary and secondary prevention techniques to avoid the more costly approach of using drugs and biologics to treat sick piglets. The importance of biosecurity cannot be overstated. Preventing disease is highly preferable to treating disease, especially with the VFD requirements implemented this year. A record program that can store the necessary information and allow data retrieval in a usable format is the basis of an effective health program.
Baby Pig Infectious Diseases and Treatment Protocols
Determining the cause of neonatal pig losses is not easy because few diseases produce signs that are unique to the causative agent. For example, baby pig scours can be caused by a bacteria, virus, or parasite and you cannot distinguish between them by the nature of the scours. Your veterinarian can assist you in obtaining a diagnosis and recommending treatment. It’s expensive and wasteful to begin treatment if you’re unsure of the cause of the disease so it is important to obtain a diagnosis and treat accordingly. For the experienced observer, some diseases that occur regularly on the farm can be recognized by farm managers and treatment instituted as soon as the signs are recognized. However, if the piglets do not respond to treatment, then contact your veterinarian to reassess the situation and check the diagnosis.
No Silver Bullet
Although no one management practice will make all the difference, the combination of careful attention and care through management, genetics, health, nutrition and husbandry will help you improve your weaning average and have more high quality, profitable pigs.