Care and Management of Piglets at Farrowing Time

By Julio P. Yap, Jr.

We tackled the breeding and management of gilts or sows. This article will focus on the care and management of piglets at farrowing time.

Dr. Allen Valdeavilla, a technical extension veterinarian at the Univet Nutrition and Animal Healthcare Company or UNAHCO, said that it is important to prepare the necessary farrowing materials and equipment before the farrowing dates.

1. Using a clean dry cloth, wipe the mucous membrane and other birth materials from the mouth and nose of the newborn pigs. Valdeavilla said you can help the piglet breathe by swinging it with its head down or slapping it for a few seconds.

2. Tie a string around the umbilical cord at least two inches from the base, and cut with a sharp pair of surgical scissors.

Do not pull the cord away from the body while cutting so as not to cause a hernia. Dip injured tip of the cord into a bottle of tincture of iodine.

3. Place piglets in the piglet box underneath a heater. Whenever necessary, a 100-watt bulb is enough to provide the desired temperature. This can be changed to a 50-watt bulb after 14 days of brooding.

4. Cut the needle teeth, but cut only the tip of the teeth. Valdeavilla said that this is done by holding the pig firmly with one hand; three fingers should support the jaw while the thumb presses against the back of the neck. Insert the forefinger and place it at one side of the mouth, just behind the needle teeth and reaching the tip of the tongue.

With a side-cutting nipper or ordinary nail cutter, cut it close to the gum level. Do not make a slanted cut or leave jagged edges as these are likely to cause injuries to the gums and tongue of the piglet, and consequently, to the teats of the mother. It is important to clean and disinfect the nipper before using it on another piglet.

5. Let the piglets suck the first milk (colostrum). According to Valdeavilla, colostrum contains antibodies needed by the baby pigs to fight diseases in their early life.

6. Provide the newborn piglets with an iron supplement through an injection. Iron reserves in the body of a newborn piglet are consumed in four days. Injection with an iron supplement, such as Jectran Premium with Zinc on the third day of life is necessary to prevent piglet or newborn anaemia.

Repeat the administration 14 days after birth or as soon as symptoms are detected.

7. Wean piglets at 28 to 30 days of age with average of eight kilograms weaning weight. Weaning can be done earlier if the sow becomes too thin from nursing the piglets. The proper procedure in weaning is to remove the sow, leaving the piglets in familiar surroundings. Sows should return to heat four to seven days after weaning.

8. Other routine procedures done to piglets are ear notching, tattooing, and tail docking. These are usually done on Days 1 to 3, while castration is done when the piglets are 10 to 14 days old.

Care and Management of Growing Finishing Pigs

According to Valdeavilla, management requirements for growing-finishing pigs are less demanding; nevertheless, they must still be provided with ample protection against pests and diseases, and fed in accordance with their requirements.

• Deworm pigs with Latigo 1000 one week after weaning to rid them of parasitic worms.

• Come up with an appropriate medication and vaccination program to protect the pigs from common infections, and follow strict biosecurity protocols to prevent the entry or spread of pathogens on the farm.

• Sell or butcher pigs when they reach a profitable market size of at least 80 kilograms. Slow-growing pigs, despite good feeding and management, should be disposed of immediately. Keeping them any longer will be uneconomical.

• It is important to know the prevailing market prices of pork. It is also important to know the exact weights of the live animals and to sell the pigs on the basis of weight.

Next, we will tackle routine management practices.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s December 2015 issue.