Nursing Piglets

Piglets are less than 1% of mature body weight at birth and should nurse within 10 to 35 minutes after being born. At birth, piglets lack adequate brown fat or sufficient glycogen reserves to maintain body heat for long if chilled or starved. Therefore, they require early colostrum for energy and antibodies, and a warm, dry environment. Piglets fight for teat order and will nurse from the same teat until weaning.

Newborn piglets require an ambient temperature of about 95F. (Note the lamp for heat in the photo.) Their temperature requirements decrease by about 3 degree per week over the first 6 to 8 weeks of life. The initial temperature requirements of neonatal pigs present a major challenge to farrowing house management because sows require a co-existing thermal environment of about 70 to 72F.

The most common congenital defect seen is herniation (2%), followed by cryptorchidism (1-2%), and intersexuality. Each of these conditions is heritable. Boars and sows which produce litters of piglets with these conditions should not be bred again.

Copyright ©1997 by the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine
Faculty: Dr. Paul Pitcher
Student: Sandra Springer,'99