10 April 1998

Cut piglet deaths

A COMBINATION of smaller farrowing pens and ad lib feeding for sows could reduce piglet mortality.

Researcher Jean Burkes work at Seale Hayne, Devon, presented at the British Society of Animal Sciences annual meeting, monitored piglet-to-sow contact in pens designed to allow 8.6sq m/sow – typical of most commercial farrowing units when service passages are included. She found piglets suckled 52 times/day compared with 38 times/day for sows in pens allowing 13.4m sq/sow.

The trial also found sows ate more when offered feed ad-lib. "Feed is normally restricted in farrowing crates, however, sows fed ad-lib may sustain milk production and improve piglet survival."

The research monitored 16 Camborough sows from a commercial unit and found average feed intakes of 8kg/sow/day. Each sow visited the ad-lib feeder up to eight times/day and ate between 1-3kg/sow/visit.

"In the evening, sows were passive and allowed piglets to suckle. If higher feed intakes on ad-lib systems over restricted feeding systems do sustain lactations its to the benefit of the piglet."

However, research showed sows are reluctant to visit feeders where space is restricted.

and aggressive encounters with other sows may occur.

"In this situation, sows visit less frequently and eat more/visit. Siting of the feeder remains an important issue if feed intakes are to be maintained."