14 top tips to improve number of piglets per sow

Pig farmer David Goodier of Greenhalgh, Preston, who farms in partnership with his dad Leonard, started focusing on pre-weaning mortality when he became AHDB Pork’s Focus Farm in June last year.

His pig unit manager Wayne Connell highlights 14 ways to help improve pig numbers per sow.

1. Clean the back of the crates out every day. Put shredded paper just at the back and sides of the crate until the sow starts to farrow, then move paper to the back of the sow so piglets land on paper and dry out quicker.

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2. Move piglets to make up litters of similar-sized pigs. This avoids small pigs needing to fight for milk.

3. Split suckling is a good alternative. If the sow has too many pigs and you don’t have anywhere to put them, put half in a box on a heat mat and keep half on the sow, then swap over.

4. Monitor the sows functioning teat numbers so you can decide how many piglets to keep on her.

5. If litters start fading, love the whole litter, not individual piglets, because this stops the spread of disease.

6. Keep small piglets on young sows or gilts as they milk better than older sows and have smaller teats.

7. Start giving piglets supplementary feed on day two, especially in large litters.

8. Recording how many piglets the sow had allows you to keep track of farrowing throughout the day.

9. Inject iron into a piglet’s neck rather than the leg.

10. When moving piglets around the farrowing house, mark the pigs ‘to and from’ litters. This helps monitor piglets to see how well they are doing on different sows.

11. When grinding teeth, only grind tip of teeth.

12. Smaller piglets may benefit from a piglet booster.

13. Make sure all sows get up to eat every day.

14. Make sure piglets are kept warm enough by using a heat lamp at the back of the crate. The farrowing house needs to be between 21C and 23C.