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How to control piglets during split nursing

Litter from a hyperprolific sow. Author: Josep Mª Girvent

Litter from a hyperprolific sow. Author: Josep Mª Girvent

The disadvantage of some boxes is that some piglets are too big and lively and jump off easily.

Split nursing is a technique that has become very relevant as part of the management of hyperprolific sows.

A genetic female line is classified as hyperprolific when it produces on average 15 Total Born or more. Due to this amount of piglets born, the number of teats available or functional is usually not enough. Also, the average individual piglet weight decreases and there is an increase in the number of medium and small and less viable piglets.

To make the situation even more difficult, though milk production increases as the number of piglets born do so, colostrum production does not work in the same way. It is believed that a sow produces an average of 3.6 Kg of colostrum and each piglet needs 200 grams. So this colostrum production will feed 18 piglets.

The function of colostrum is to provide passive immunity to the piglet and also supply the energy required to quickly increase its body temperature. Colostrum also plays a role improving weight homogeneity at weaning.

Therefore, the objective of split nursing is to ensure that every piglet receives 200 grams of colostrum whilst they remain with their dam during the first 10-12 hours after birth.

This is achieved by confining the bigger piglets for an hour, leaving the medium and small ones with their dam so they have easier access to the teats. The number of piglets left must be enough to massage the udder and stimulate milk letdown (never less than 10-12 piglets). Small piglets are never confined, and the big ones can be taken away several times during working hours.

The piglets can be confined in creeps, boxes, removable partitions, etc…

Covered creep area

Covered creep area

The video below shows some piglets placed inside a plastic box used for picking fruit, which are cheap and easy to find. Their only disadvantage is that some piglets are too big and lively and jump off easily. For this reason, we decided to put the box upside down, as shown in the video, and by doing so we managed to keep the piglets confined as long as needed.

Video 1: A simple system to keep a group of piglets locked up when doing split nursing.

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