Piglet Management at Birth

A sow can give birth to 8-14 baby pigs at a time, and care is very essential for the period after they are farrowed. Good care and management in the farrowing areas will determine the success of the growth of the piglets in the later stages of growth especially during weaning time. Like any other animal born the baby pigs are born without antibodies which can help them fight for diseases, so the caretaker should make it a priority that they suckle colostrum in the first few hours of birth.


When baby Pigs are born their bodies contain fat energy and therefore they cannot regulate their body temperature well until they are a few days old. This will mean that a decrease in milk consumption due to chilling (adverse cooling effects of a pig by cold wind, wet/damp bedding and drafts) or exposure to diseases may compromise the health of the baby pig. It is advisable for the caretaker to help the sow during farrowing as this has shown to increase survival and number of piglets being weaned.

Colostrum Intake  

This is the first milk suckled by a baby piglet in the first few hours after birth. This milk is very rich in nutrients and antibodies which are needed by the baby pig. Since the litter maybe more than the teats of the dam it is advisable for the caretaker to assist the baby pigs so that they all suckle colostrum. The following can be adopted:

  1. Prevent chilling so that the piglets are warm
  2. Split suckle- this involves removing part of the litter for a few hours (1-2 hours) intervals in the first 12 hours after furrowing. The strongest piglets may be separated from the weak ones.
  3. If the colostrum is not enough collect cow colostrum and feed to the baby pigs through tube feeding or syringe.

Processing pigs

Processing piglets includes clipping teeth, clipping and treating the umbilical cord, iron administration, tail docking, identification, treating splay legged piglets, providing supplemental nutrients, and castration. These skills can be performed in different ways and in the sequence of personal preference. Some producers elect not to perform all these procedures, or they prefer to delay some of them for three to four days to reduce stress on the very fragile one-day-old piglet.

Clipping teeth

Pigs are born with eight needle teeth. The main reason for choosing to clip needle teeth is to prevent potential damage to the sow’s underline, which may lead to a reluctance of the sow to allow nursing. It can also prevent facial injuries to littermates when fighting over teats. If teeth clipping is not done properly, it may result in damage to the gums or roots of the teeth. Infection can be caused by clipping teeth too close to the gum. Or, if the tool used is dull or broken the tooth may splinter or split down through the roots causing infection. Infection is painful and will prevent the piglet from eating properly.

Clipping and treating the umbilical cord

Do not clip the umbilical cord on newborn piglets immediately after expulsion. Such a procedure may create an avenue for disease organisms to enter the piglet’s body. It will dry and  fall off on its own. This usually happens about six hours after birth although it may take longer for weak piglets. If a piglet is bleeding from the navel stop the bleeding by tying clean string around the cord approximately 2-5cm from the body. Disinfection of the base of the navel cord should be a routine practice to prevent if not minimize problems later on (navel ill, greasy pig, arthritis).

Iron administration

Sow’s milk contains insufficient iron and piglets are born with minimal reserves. Pigs born in the wild or outside get most of the iron they need from rooting in the soil. But when the ground is frozen, those born inside or outside need supplemental iron to prevent anemia. This can be given by injection or orally. Injection is the preferred method because of the ease of regulating dosage and the ability to insure pigs get as much as they need. Be sure to hold pig correctly and change needles at least every 3 litters or if needle gets damaged.

Tail docking

Tail docking is performed on small piglets to prevent the potential for tail biting problems among pen mates as pigs grow and develop. The bottom line of the study: the hot-bladed cauterizing process is a reasonable concept to reduce bleeding. With proper technique simple cold clipping with sanitised side cutters is quicker, more efficient and based on pig vocalisations less painful to the piglet than the hot-blade cauterised docking procedure.


There are a variety of tracking and identification systems used for managing pigs. There are a few ear-marking systems that can be used to identify individual pigs. The degree of detail used to identify the animals depends on the piggery’s requirements ranging from a unique number for each pig to a number for each week/batch. When each pig’s identification mark and date of birth is recorded the age of the animal can be easily calculated at any stage of its life. To be effective in the long term most pig identification systems require a record book so you can easily trace the animals.

Treating splay legged piglets

This is a condition where the newborn piglet is unable to hold the front and/or (more commonly) back legs together and up to 2 % of piglets can be affected. The mobility of the piglet is impaired which makes teat access difficult. It is more common in the Landrace breed and males. Disease is caused by immaturity of the muscle fibres in the hind legs over the pelvis and occasionally in the front legs. The piglets are unable to stand with the hind legs deflected laterally and as a result they often adopt a dog sitting position. The condition is exaggerated when piglets stand on very smooth or wet slippery floors. Death usually ensues either due to starvation or crushing, because the pig cannot move away from the sow


Castration is performed on young boar pigs. It is done for two reasons

  1. Uncastrated male pigs called boars are known for aggression. As the age and body size of sexual maturity is reached boars tend to be more aggressive, bite, shove and jump on other pigs. Boars can also be hard for workers to handle and boar aggression can be a risk to worker safety. Castrating a male pig will reduce these behaviors.
  2. Meat from boars that are nearing sexual maturity has high potential for an odour and flavour problem commonly called boar taint. Boar taint does not affect food safety, but it does change how meat tastes and smells. Some describe it as a “musk” or a smell similar to onions or manure.



Piglets may be castrated within 7 days after birth. When larger or older pigs need to be castrated it should be performed under the direction of a veterinarian.

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