The first 24 hours are the most important in a piglet’s life.
Larry Coleman, veterinarian with Vet Care in Broken Bow, NE, says it’s equally important to start even before the piglets are born, providing the best care possible for a sow prior to and during farrowing. “All too often our industry is used to put it on auto-pilot.”
Through proper management Coleman told a seminar audience at the Midwest Pork Conference in Danville, IN, that swine producers should be able to expect less than 2% stillbirths, less than 5% preweaning mortality, weaning 14 pigs per litter and achieving 35 pigs per sow per year. These are numbers that can be achieved, “but not without intention.”
Starting with healthy sows, Coleman says the big picture to achieve what he likes to call a “world-class farm” includes an interactive triangle of the piglets comfort zone, techniques and leadership, the last being “what it takes to make it all happen.”
Looking at piglet comfort zone, Coleman says bilateral zones are best, on both sides of the sow. “Why should a right or left turn by the piglet be such a life-changing move” if there is only one comfort zone. To achieve this, Coleman says a 5-foot farrowing crate is too narrow, 5 ½-foot is better, but 6-foot is much better.
As in the real estate business, location, location, location is also important for the comfort zone, best located in the middle of the udder, and Coleman encourages producers not to change this throughout the entire lactation.
As mentioned above, piglet survival is dependent on more than just the comfort zone, and a lot of that depends on the human side of the equation – the team that works with the hogs. “Most people think off the team as those who work in the farrowing room, but it starts at the top with ownership, working down to supervisors, then managers, then employees, then ultimately to the pigs, which if successful, make money for the ownership, creating an interlocking circle.
“The take-home (message) is that 70% of excessive preweaning mortality is preventable,” he says.
Look to future issues of Weekly Wrap-up and National Hog Farmer for more coverage of the Midwest Pork Conference.