9 January 1998

Early weaning is healthy route

WEANING piglets at 10 days old could improve their health and welfare, and allow sows to maintain better body condition.

So said Gerhard Schwarting, Nurtingen University, Germany, at a Quality Equipment seminar. While UK legislation dictated routine weaning at over 21 days of age, he suggested earlier weaning was better.

According to Prof Schwarting, early weaned piglets have higher levels of maternal antibodies giving them greater immunity to disease. Where there is a health problem, he advised weaning piglets at 10 days of age. He also cited evidence that piglets weaned at 14 days old only spent two hours looking for their mother compared with up to three days for those weaned at 25 days.

"Sows also benefited from earlier weaning, by maintaining better body condition, and although they produced 0.5 pigs less a litter they farrowed 2.55 times a year and could rear over 25 pigs a year. Sows also had longer productive lives," he added.

Increasing birthweight of each piglet was a better way of improving productivity than the current UK focus of more pigs a litter, said Prof Schwarting.

"Piglets weighing 2kg at birth, gained 300g a day and reached 10.4kg after 28 days compared with 5.1kg for piglets weighing 0.9kg at birth."n

Gerhard Schwarting: Earlier weaned piglets have higher antibody levels, and greater immunity to disease.