The First Five Days

Tips on sanitation and farrowing management from Ed Barrie, Sow Weaner Pig Specialist in the Pork News & Views newsletter from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).
calendar icon 27 April 2012
clock icon 4 minute read

As management skills of pork producers have improved, and science has learned more about new born pigs needs, we are seeing changes in how we manage farrowing processes.


Sanitation is recognised as an absolute necessity in farrowing room management. We have learned how to collect samples to determine negative bacteria present in facilities.

With this knowledge we have been able to develop cleaning protocols using high pressure water (hot and cold) de–greasers, detergents, post wash rinses, disinfectants and drying to achieve sanitation levels that are quite suitable for newborn animals and their dam.

Farrowing Management

We have learned to move sows/gilts into facilities earlier rather than later. In doing this the benefits include being able to get them onto a feeding and watering schedule, as well as allowing them time to settle into the new crates.

We can adjust the crates to suit the sows and ensure we have all supplies and services necessary to deal with any early arrivals.

Around delivery day, record cards can be placed, floor matting put in place and heat mats, as well as heat lamps, can be placed in preparation for farrowing.

Covers (hovers) over the resting area for small pigs have come back into use for two reasons. Firstly, they reduce the heat loss to the air in the room and thus reduce energy costs. Secondly, they reduce drafts and restrict air movement which results in a more comfortable environment for the young pig. There is also the added advantage in restricted air movement of keeping the sow cool.

Farrowing Day

Assistance at the time of farrowing is an area that has a proven pay–off. Ideally, assistance should be available 24 hours a day for the duration of farrowing. One person will not be able to achieve the results of two, and two are best used on a split shift basis which could give coverage for 12 or 14 hours a day. This allows some time for overlap for tasks requiring two people (such as moving sows experiencing farrowing difficulties, or milking and feeding colostrum).

What we have learned about the newborn animal and the suckling process has also helped us significantly. We have known for some time that newborn pigs have very low energy reserves. What we are currently seeing is that genetic selection for leaner animals has resulted in newborns with the possibility of even lower energy reserves available. The second point we have established is that newborns often take 20 minutes to find a teat and begin to nurse. In this time period they are wet, in a significantly colder environment than before being born.

Also they are often attached to their dam by an umbilical cord which may well take significant time to stretch long enough to either break or allow nursing. In addition to these challenges, some smaller animals can be suffocated either within or under afterbirth material. The solution is to get the piglets separated from the sow, dried off either by hand or heat sources, and installed on a lactating nipple to nurse colostrum.

Larger litters can be separated into smaller and larger animals by weight, and larger animals are placed in a container or ring under a heat source while smaller ones are allowed to nurse first. They should be switched every hour, and all piglets should be given a chance to nurse within an hour of birth.

April 2012

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