Weaning of piglets is one of the most stressful stage in the life of a pig. Management should provide the optimum care at this stage to prevent mortalities and production losses.
Welcome to the Sixth Episode of the Hog Raising FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) Show, a new show dedicated for hog raisers and would-be hog raisers who want to gain and update knowledge in swine farming and get answers to their questions or problems in their pigs.
In this Episode, Dr. Teng David will answer questions about Weanling Problems to prevent mortalities and production losses in Pig Farming.
Watch the replay of this week’s episode below.
About our Host
Dr. Oreste D. David is a Swine Veterinary Practitioner with 20 years experience in hog raising. He’s the founder of Pinoy Hog Raising and Pinoy Pig Academy Facebook Communities and manages David Swine A.I. Center, Inc. and Viddavet Trading.
Use the timestamps below to fast-forward to our top questions in the replay above.
- 4:58 What are Weanlings?
- 6:11 What Happens at Weaning?
- 15:40 Management at Weaning
- A) Housing and Pen Management 15:50
- B) Feed Intake 31:42
- C) Health Management 43:20
- 47:30 Common Diseases of Weanlings
- A) Post-weaning diarrhea 47: 32
- B) Meningitis 55:38
- C) Edema Disease / Gut Edema 59:30
What are Weanlings?
Weanlings are piglets which has been separated from the mother pig or sow until they reach around 15-20 kgs body weight.
In the Philippines, most piglets are weaned at 30 days old and have an average weight of 7.5 kilos body weight.
This age group is critical because they are prone to a lot of stress brought about by weaning from the sow, mixing with other piglets and feeding adjustments.
Objectives at Weaning
Producing and keeping healthy weanlings is one of the primary objectives of managing piglets. This is to keep them disease-free and have better immunity.
Also, having an efficient performance in terms of growth rate is the other objective. This will allow the pigs to reach market weight quickly
What Happens at Weaning?
At around 28-30 days from birth, piglets are weaned from the sow. This means that the supply of nutritious and digestible milk will stop and it will cause a lot of stress to the piglets.
Moreover, they now need to survive to a non-milk diet. Because of this, bacteria like E. coli can now colonize the intestine easily since the antibodies from the sow’s milk is no longer available.
These changes in turn causes bacteria to damage the villi of the intestine which causes malabsorption of nutrients, and eventually leads to piglet scour. The rate of villi regeneration in the intestine will be dependent to the pig environment and other management practices in the farm.
Management at Weaning
A) Housing and Pen Management
- Remove the sow (not the piglets) in the farrowing pen. This will lessen the stress to the piglets because moving the piglets will mean new environment and new pen mates for them.
2. Allocate space of 0.23 – 0.33 m2 per pig. This will prevent stunting of piglets. Also piglets are prone to diseases like PRRS and pneumonia if they are crowded. Tail and ear biting will also be prevented if proper spacing is provided.
3. Adjust drinkers and provide extra in pan the first 3 days. It is good to use automatic nipple drinker for weaned piglets to provide them their daily water requirement of 1 liter of water per day.
4. Provide warm environment to keep piglets dry. Ideal environment temperature for weaned piglets is between 25*C to 28*C. To achieve this, put a brooder lamp with a 100 watts bulb especially during the first 3 days of weaning.
B) Feed Intake
- ) Ensure early feed intake and give gruel feeds at weaning. While piglets are still at suckling stage, give booster feeds as early as 5-7 days old.
So when weaning time comes, there will only be slight adjustment in feeding. Gruel feeds can be given 3 days before weaning and 3 days after weaning.
Piglets will consume more feeds in semi liquid form because it is nearer in consistency with milk. Also, piglets will get their daily feed and water requirement easily with this method of feeding.
2.) Medicate feeds at least 3 days before and 3 days after weaning. Piglets are prone to diarrhea during rainy season because bacteria like E. coli can proliferate faster.
So medicating feeds with antibiotics during weaning is a good preventive medication
3.) Provide adequate through space to maximize growth. A weanling piglet will need 10 cm feeder space.
This will prevent runting of inferior piglets in the group. Fighting with feeder space will also lead to Greasy Pig Disease because of facial wounds that would arise from fighting.
C) Health Management
- ) Pen sanitation when moving in new groups. Sanitize and disinfect pens 3 days before we put new piglets in the pen. This will break bacterial cycle and also lessen bacterial load which can lead to slow growth.
2.) Minimize buying stocks from many sources. It is ideal to buy piglets from one source only.
But if buying piglets from multiple sources is the only choice, we recommend re-vaccination all piglets for diseases like hog cholera, mycoplasma, PRRS or other vaccines for diseases prevalent in the area.
3.) Treat scours promptly and clean soiled area. Visit piglets early morning before feeding and cleaning time.
At the initial signs of loose feces in some weanling pens, start medicating water with electrolytes and mark piglets with soiled rumps and treat with injectable antibiotics daily for 3 days.
Most Common Diseases for Weanlings
A) Post-weaning Diarrhea
The bacteria E. coli is the most common cause of post-weaning diarrhea. At weaning,the IgA in sow’s milk that protects the intestine against E. coli is no longer available for the piglets. This allows the toxin of E. coli to cause enteritis and diarrhea
Signs and Symptoms
Signs can be seen within 5 days after weaning and can peak at 7-10 after weaning.
Sudden death in piglet is common with sunken eyeballs and blueing of extremities. Others may show dehydration with watery or pasty diarrhea.
Treatment and Prevention
Add Zinc oxide in feeds for 2 weeks at the rate of 2.5 to 3 kgs/ton of feeds.
Individual injection of sick pigs with antibiotic is advisable especially during the initial stage. Suitable antibiotics include Amoxicillin, enrofloxacin, gentamicin and trimethoprim/sulfa.
Also put electrolytes in the drinking water for piglets with signs of dehydration. Prevention of the disease was discussed in the management at weaning above.
Streptococcus suis is a common bacteria of pigs which is present in the tonsil. During stressful conditions like weaning, they can proliferate and infect the brain.
Signs and Symptoms
Sudden death in weanlings is a common sign. Initial signs include a glassy stare and unsteady gait.
Moreover nystagmus (lateral movement of the eye), paddling and frothing of mouth can also be observed in other weanlings.
Isolate the affected pig because it may shed the bacteria during infection
Since the piglet cannot stand, dripping water in the mouth using hose pipe will prevent dehydration. Mouth feeding with gruel feeds will be helpful.
Give short-acting Penicillin antibiotics 2x a day during the first 24 hours. Follow up with long-acting antibiotic.
You can also use injectable Ceftiofur or Trimethoprim sulfa as alternative.
If disease incidence in the farm is common, you can give medicated feeds 3 days before weaning until the fourth week after weaning.
You can use phenoxymethyl penicillin, tetracyclines, amoxicillin and TMPS.
Review management at weaning like stocking densities, draughts and chilling and mixing of pigs that may cause stress to weanlings.
Increase vitamin E in the diet of weanling pigs.
C) Edema Disease / Gut Edema
This disease is also caused by E. coli with its verotoxin that damages wall of blood vessels. The damage of blood vessels in the brain causes neurological signs that can be seen.
Signs and Symptoms
Sudden death 1-4 weeks after weaning is common, especially the bigger piglets in the group.
A live pig has puffy eyelids and a squealing sound due to edema.
Nervous signs like paddling, staggering gait and coma is also evident.
Most pig die when the nervous sign is observed. Preventive medication is advised if the disease is common in the farm.
Suitable antibiotics in feeds include apramycin, neomycin and trimethoprim/sulfa
Restricted feeding in the post-weaning stage is advisable. Excessive feed intake put stress to the piglet’s intestine and causes alkaline pH that is suitable for E. coli proliferation.
You can add zinc oxide in the feeds at the rate of 2.5 kgs/ton to control E. coli multiplication
Adding vitamin E in feeds will also increase immunity of piglets.
What are your struggles during weaning? What do you do to lessen the stress of piglets during this stage? Share in the comments section below