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Enough Colostral Energy?

I continue my aim during the present feed price crisis of only writing about actions you can take which do not involve any additional expense at all - apart from more attention to detail. One such is in the area of colostrum.

I continue my aim during the present feed price crisis of only writing about actions you can take which do not involve any additional expense at all - apart from more attention to detail. One such is in the area of colostrum.
Information taken from the records of some 60 breeder clients visited over the past five years clearly shows how much bigger their litters are these days. 13s are as common as 10s were only 8 years ago. This success, while welcome, also has two downsides to it.
  1. A litter of 13 takes about 20 to 30 minutes longer to deliver than one of 10, and the last three almost certainly exhausted neonates to be expelled are very vulnerable. So anything which can speed up farrowing time is valuable. A new product `Parturaid` looks to be very useful in this respect. Have a look at it.
  2. Studying the records from 14 clients' farms who have always believed in weighing piglets at birth also suggests that their birthweights are more variable these days and that losses to weaning are up by half a pig at least (with some as many as two) despite three more being expelled. This seems to be mainly due to those tail-enders. One authority suggests that birthweight reduces by 32 to 40g for each extra pig in the litter over 11.
Both these drawbacks can be counterbalanced by the stockperson being there at farrowing.to ensure sufficient colostrum is consumed by every piglet in those first vital few suckling episodes. What we need to take on board is that colostral energy is just as important as immunoglobulin adequacy.
Here are a few observations gathered from the literature.
•The importance of the immunoglobulins in colostrum is well-known, but what is less appreciated by farm workers is the very high digestible energy content of colostrum to suit a` brand-new` absorbtive gut surface which is completely immature. Thus the retention of energy by the newborn is much higher than from later sow`s milk
• The newborn piglet needs 1000 kilojoules of energy per kg of bodyweight.
It is born with about 420 kilojoules, so survival depends on it getting around 150 to 170 g of colostrum per kg body weight soon after being born.. Sows produce between 1.9 to 5.3 kg of colostrum in the first 24 hours (3.5 kg is usually assumed).
• Under research conditions, the work has shown that newborns allowed ample access to the udder will consume 250 g colostrum/ kg body weight, a comfortably safe level of intake. However under the more rigorous conditions of a typical farm, intake maybe much closer to the critical threshold of 150 to 170 g/kg. bodyweight to ensure survival. Each 100 g less body weight could decrease colostrum intake by 30 grams, according to French work.
• Moreover, with unsupervised litters at farrowing, the heavier and earlier-born piglets are likely to get a disproportionate share of colostrum and the smaller and later arrivals suffer not only a reduction of immunoglobulins, but also not enough immediately-available energy. This energy intake deficit could increase neonatal mortality in the later arrivals which are already anoxic or hypoxic, and are thus cold and weak, both immediately rectified by a quick suckle or two of colostrum.
This is why it pays to be there at farrowing and for the carer to `catch` these vulnerable neonates and to use the various well-known methods of attention to defend them. It worries me a bit that on many of the farms I visit, they are not yet using batch-farrowing and prostaglandins - which make being present at nearly all farrowings so much easier.
Three more pigs per litter these days - great! But to lose two of them so early on is wasteful and largely needless.

7 comments

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    Mark Fysh

    A very important article, which takes us back to basics. When I was a young Manager, the practice of immediate suckling was my chief tool in keeping needless mortality down. We even milked the sows and stored the colostrum in syringes for later use, and manually dosed the "noddies" via feeding tube.

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    ding garilao

    we are giving hog cholera precolostral vaccination on our piglets, and our practice is we rest them in a brooder box for about 30 minutes before letting them suckle (supervised, w/ the little ones being helped), would this delay in energy intake have a negative effect on the survival of the piglets?

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    jj

    Split suckling to remove early born pigs into separate area ( warm ) and allow second born exra access is often useful taught me by Peter Gladman Tewesbury circa 1984 but remeber to go back and reunite litter ( alarm watch is useful reminder )
    jj

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    jj

    split suckling at birth is useful tool I have used remove early born after they have taken their share and leave second half ( smaller ) to fight on a fair basis.

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    John Gadd

    "Thank you Mark, Ding and JJ for your valid comments of 25-26th April. I've been working abroad hence the delay in replying. JJ. Split suckling is a well-established technique among skilled pig technicians - I've done it successfully myself.

    Mark - with you all the way. I've stomach-tubed over 300 'noddies' (lovely name!) with colostrum and only drowned two. The technique, with photos, for those of you who haven't dared do it yet can be found in my 'What the Textbooks Don't Tell You' book, pps 159-161.

    Ding. What an interesting thought. I think it will if those of your 'little ones' are exhausted, flaccid and thus are short of blood glycogen, which can be used up very quickly in the prolonged struggle to get born among the last to be expelled, so be very careful about keeping these neonates away from the udder for 30 minutes after being born.
    I'd rather stomach-tube such obvious weaklings as Mark does."

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    Linda Hutchinson

    hoping you can share your thoughts about securing piglets away from the Sow overnight. Although we supervise 95% of farrowings, warm and tube feed relevant suckers, we can't justify our layover loses. We are currently reviewing farrowing creates and environment, (creates are fairly new), We have reduced the mortality significantly by securing the suckers away overnight, and our weaned per Sow has improved in direct relation-however your thoughts on the 'not seen dangers' would be really valued.

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    John Gadd

    Linda - don't do it! The piglets need to suckle about every 45 minutes and to deny them even as few as 6 natural feeds during the night must surely run them short of essential 'internal' energy even if you keep them cosy under a lamp overnight. It will also disturb the bacterial flora in the gut and risk digestive upset. Maybe even worse, it risks damaging immmunocompetence and exposes them to pathogen attack.
    Instead, look to your causes for overlying. The design of the crate especially the bottom rail.
    Flooring - comfortable for the sow so that she gets up, and can turn over to suckle, easily. Too much bedding to delay the smaller pigets when she does? (Some crate designers, in order to be kind to the sow, build in a softish mat for her to lie on which can encourage neonates to sleep there too, or up against the udder, and then get crushed when she moves. If you have bought this innovation it is essential to provide a heated and well-lit creep area which is even more attractive to them!) Nervous, old, overweight or clumsy sows? Weak, low birthweight pigs? Prolonged farrowing - the last 3 out are often very weak and get a bad start at getting out of the way. Position of creep/no lamped creep? Infection from wounds ( teeth clipping, sore knees) causing painful joints/ slow movement. Draughts? And so on.......

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