Piglet vitality, a topic that is at the centre of the social debate in the Netherlands for months. No longer only the companies within the agricultural industry discuss about this topic. It also raises questions within the society. The mortality rates, which were published in the beginning of 2016, created a whirlwind of opinions. However, there are many factors that influence the mortality of piglets.
Genetic improvement and good quality feed contributed to the increase of the number of piglets per litter. In a relatively short period of time larger litters became standard. These larger litters are a challenge for the farrowing management. Extra care and attention during and after farrowing can contribute to the reduction of the mortality rates. Peace, cleanliness and regularity are then key.
The birth process is very stressful for a sow and her piglets. Creating peace in the farrowing pen during and after farrowing is important. Only then the sow will feel at ease more quickly, the farrowing goes smoother and her colostrum production will start. Her piglets are able to go to the udder in a quiet environment, so they can take in the vital colostrum. For the last born piglets the birth process can be exhausting. For them, the birth lasted the longest and they have lost a lot of energy. A helping hand towards the udder can make a difference.
A clean farrowing pen supports the piglets during a vital start. At birth piglets only possess a limited amount of antibodies. Via the colostrum a sow provides the necessary antibodies to her piglets. This boosts their immune system quickly. In a clean and hygienic farrowing pen the exposure to germs is lower. Preventing carry-over and daily removal of the manure helps to reduce the infection pressure.
By monitoring the situation in the farrowing pen regularly, actions can be taken correctly and quickly. Less vital piglets are often found behind the sow and/or breathe irregularly. They are not able to drink colostrum. Their body temperature decreases rapidly. However, these less vital piglets can be supported. By letting them drink separately or help them reach the udder sooner. The sow should not be forgotten during the regular check-ups. In the lactation period a sow needs to drink a lot of water. This enhances her milk production. It is important to monitor if a sow drinks a sufficient amount of water and is not experiencing pain. As pain disturbs the colostrum intake. Which has a negative effect on the vitality of her piglets.