When a piglets birth went smoothly it is directly in the lead. A smooth birth is not self-evident. The conditions for the sow and her piglets have to be optimal.
The production results in the pig industry have risen in the past few years. A litter of 16 piglets is not out of the ordinary anymore. A piglet grows considerably in the first few weeks after birth. The sow is able to produce enough milk which enables her litter to put on 75 kg of weight within 4 weeks. Therefore it is logical that all the factors have to be optimized in order to perform.
A vital piglet
A vital piglet is a healthy piglet which grows smoothly. When this is not the case, it is possible through good examination, to make the right diagnosis. Clostridium type A and C are often found as a cause of diarrhea, next to e.g. Rota- and Corona viruses. However, the solution is not a fixed matter. At first a veterinarian often chooses to vaccinate targeted pregnant sows. With the help of a specific vaccination schedule it is possible to affect the composition of the antibodies that are present in the colostrum. In this way the piglets will take in the right antibodies. Veterinarians sometimes have to work with unregistered or foreign vaccines. The germ that is found does not always match the vaccines that are available for pigs in the Netherlands.
A quick and smooth adaption of the gilts is very important. The piglets from first parity sows more often cope with health problems. These sows have not been in the farrowing pen before, and have not had contact with the germs that are present there. By letting them gradually get used to the farrowing pen, they get used to the germs in a more natural way. This has a positive effect on the composition of their colostrum. This fits the conditions at the farm, to which the piglets will be exposed.
Increased litter size
Colostrum composition is not the only factor that plays a role in piglet vitality. Due to the increasing litter size, the colostrum has to be divided between more piglets. The volume of colostrum should therefore be sufficient, but there must also be an opportunity for the piglets to take in the colostrum,. This is only possible when the sow is healthy, and for example does not suffer form a painful udder. Moreover, a sow must be at ease, so that she will remain down on her side when nursing her piglets.
Strong vital piglets easily find their way to the udder and have enough strength to drink colostrum,. How strong and vital the piglets are depends on a variety of factors. Such as a sows health, feed policy and composition, genetic differences and of course the birth weight. When the birth weight of the piglets in a litter are more or less the same, then the competition within the litter is low. More weight difference often seen in litters from older breeding sows. Piglets that weigh around 750 grams will have a hard time, as they are weaker and cool down quickly after birth.
Colostrum provides protection
We can try to protect piglets against all dangers that they might encounter from the moment they are born. Nevertheless, only the piglets are able to build the best protection for themselves by drinking enough colostrum as quickly as possible after birth. Only the colostrum gives specific protection and energy that helps the piglet grow and become strong and vital.
Veterinarian Tineke van Gisteren
Veterinary practice De Varkenspraktijk in Oss the Netherlands