Weaning of the piglets and the stress
Weaning of the pigs and the following days are one of the most important periods in pig’s growth. With expertise and proper care, the resulting stress can be greatly reduced.
I would start to clarify, what is the weaning in a pig’s life. Taking away the piglet from the sow is the biggest stress in the piglet’s life, which brings negative behavior by the pigs.
Just think a little bit on the differences between pig production in the past and today’s intensive pig production. In our grandparent’s day actually, the sow herself was weaning the piglet, by not milking so often the piglets, producing less and less milk, and if I may say like this the sow was “biting” the piglets. By seeing this behavior, the farmer has been closing away the piglets in a pen in the neighbour of the sow. So, the piglets had some contact beside the mother pen, which did not create stress for them.
Today’s intensive pig production has speeding up this procedure, and by being more effective with maximal attention, we can grow more piglets, fatteners in our stables. We have to admit that we are more and more people on the earth, and with the old efficiency, it’s impossible to supply enough foodstuff therefor it was necessary in a few decades to improve efficiency all over the world.
We have mentioned earlier the maximal attention to the piglets, which is very important when you wean the piglets, and if you look in many farms this is what mostly is missing. Just think about, what we are doing when we are weaning our piglets. First of all, we take them away from the sow, we mix them (in worse case by size, sex, …), to avoid health problems we move them to an unknown, technically differently equipped place, and we compensate the milk with dry or liquid food. All these are negative stress for the weaned pigs, and negative stress works against the immune system. The weaning, and the first 48 hours has the same priority like the farrowing by the sow, and what we usually do, we cover with night shift the farrowing in our farms to give maximal attention for the farrowing time. Unfortunately, from all the negative factors, we have already mentioned before -with two, (taking the piglet away from the sow, and moving the piglet to a new stable) we can’t do nothing. The rest of the negative factors, (grouping of pigs, technology, feed intake…) can be made more favorable, which means if it is done well, can compensate the first two. By grouping pigs, it is important to stick to the McRebel selection and, if it’s possible, to group already two identical size (about 26-28 pigs per group) before the piglet is taken out from the own farrowing pen. At this time we move from the groups only the smallest piglets (3-4). This procedure will help to decrease the rang fight. With the technology we should preferable ensure the same easy access like in the farrowing unit (water, feed, temperature) and ensure the maximum feed intake, which can be supported by assigning a person who is babysitting, teaching the piglets, using the strange unknown things.