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Activities after Birth of Piglets

At birth, the piglet undergoes many activities which are quite stressful. Below are the activities for the piglets.

Iron Injection

Iron is an important mineral necessary for the formation of hemoglobin in the red blood cells. Hemoglobin acts as a carrier of oxygen in the body. Iron also plays a role in preventing nutritional anemia.

At birth, the piglets have about 50 milligrams (mg) of iron reserves in the body. This amount of iron is not adequate to allow the piglet to grow at its maximum potential for about 2 weeks after birth.

The piglet requires about 7 mg of iron per day during the first week and about 10-mg at 3 weeks. From the sow's milk, the piglets get only 1 - 2 mg of iron. Therefore, if piglets are confined with no other source of iron except via the milk, serious losses from anemia are encountered.

Signs of Iron Deficiency
  1. Loss of appetite
  2. Slow growth
  3. Poor hair and skin conditions
  4. Thin piglets
  5. Paleness (anemia, anemic)
  6. Restlessness
  7. Difficulty in breathing (thumping)

Amount of Iron to be supplied for the first 30 days
Amount of Iron to be supplied at least for its first 30 days of life can be roughly calculated as follows:

Needed/day = 7 mg
Fe from milk = 1-2 mg
deficit = 5-6 mg/day 30 days
= 150-180 mg

Therefore, we need to supply 150-180 mg after 30 days, the piglet can eat enough feed for additional source of iron.

Ways Iron can be given or supplied
A. Injection
Mostly practiced, can be done at the 1st to the 3rd day after birth, exact and easy. If iron preparation has 100-mg iron per ml, you can give a single dose of 2 ml or two doses of 1 ml each, given on the third day and 1 week after. If iron preparation has 200 mg/ml, 1-ml injection during the 1st to 3rd day is sufficient

B. Oral Administration of Iron
Mostly practiced, can be done at the 1st to the 3rd day after birth, exact and easy. If iron preparation has 100-mg iron per ml, you can give a single dose of 2 ml or two doses of 1 ml each, given on the third day and 1 week after. If iron preparation has 200 mg/ml, 1-ml injection during the 1st - 3rd day is sufficient
  • Sod (topsoil). Place a little in the corner of the pen daily. Soil is a natural source of iron.
  • Compost. Mixed with creep feed or milk replacer and a handful be given every feeding time.
  • Iron-copper/pellets. Can be given as pellets or mixed with feeds, iron paste/solution. given to piglets at birth, placed in the mouth and/or swabbed upon the sow's udder. It is also possible to mix it with the drinking water.

The disadvantage of sod and compost is that soil and compost may contain bacteria, worm eggs, molds, etc. that may cause diseases, especially diarrhea. Another is that the weakest piglets that need more iron are consuming very little. And since solid/compost must be supplied daily, it requires more work. In general, the biggest problem with oral administration is that animals may not get the necessary amount of iron. This is probably the reason why injections are preferred.

Iron Toxicity in Piglets

Piglets may suffer from iron toxicity if too much iron is administered. The toxic dose of iron is about 600-mg/kg-body weight in 3 to 10 day-old piglets . The piglets show depressed feed intake and rate of gain. Piglets can also get rickets from excessive dietary iron alleviated by increasing dietary phosphorus. Deaths can also be result of iron toxicity.

Although not commonly encountered, piglets may have hypersensitivity to iron dextran (iron dextran toxicity). This is seen in newborn pigs that are born of sows or gilts deficient in Vitamin E or selenium during pregnancy. When prophylactic amounts of iron are given, acute deaths may result. Affected pigs are depressed, show staggering movements and then becomes recumbent. This type of toxicity maybe prevented by injecting deficient sows with Vitamin E and selenium during pregnancy, or the piglets at least 3 days before giving iron dextran.


Castration or the removal of the testicle is a simple operation. Complications are uncommon provided sanitary precautions were observed. Whether the operator uses a single or double incision, both produce satisfactory results.

It can be done at any age but stress and ease of handling should be considered. Five to ten (5-10 days) of age is the best time when the animal is not too big and still have a good level of antibodies from the sow.

Reminders before performing castration
  1. Check whether all male piglets are healthy. Postpone castration in case of illness/inclement weather.
  2. Check whether there are piglets with hernia to avoid complications.
  3. Clean the pen properly before castration. It is also advised not to feed pigs before castration to avoid vomiting.
  4. Do not transfer the piglets before or after castration, this will cause extra stress.

Risks/Complications of Castration
Castration abscesses which slow down growth and systemic infections (tetanus or lockjaw). Normally this condition occurs when the procedure is done under unsanitary environment like dirty scalpel blades, piglet with diarrhea. Also bathing piglets after castration is not recommended.

Post-castration hernia. Sometimes, the inguinal ring is damaged due to excessive pulling of the spermatic cord when the testicle is being forced out. In this case, the intestine might also "follow" the testicle.

Hemorrhage. The longer the animal struggles due to handling/restrain during castration the bigger the chances of hemorrhage or bleeding. It is advised to perform castration as quick as possible.

Advantages of Castration

  1. It reduces if not totally eliminate the noxious boar odor of the animals. It is said however that boar odor manifests itself on intact males only during the age of puberty (6 months up). Theoretically, if you dispose your animals at 51/2 months, you need not worry about boar odor. On the other hand, it must also be remembered that 2% will still show the boar odor.
  2. It avoids accidental breeding. Some countries do separate rearing of males and females to avoid this.
  3. Castrates are easier to handle because they are more docile.

Disadvantages of Castration
  1. Castrates grow slower than boars, on a restricted ration and Castrates also have a higher feed conversion ratio than boars.
  2. Boars have better slaughter quality (higher percentage of 1st class carcass).
  3. Stress and slower growth just after the castration (especially when castration takes place at an older age).
  4. Time consuming and a rough job.

To assure ourselves of early weaning, piglets should be in a very good condition all the time. The following should be observed:
  • Piglets should be exposed to good environment. Characteristics of a good environment for piglets are Clean, Dry, Draft free, Temperature on brooder area (30 to 32°C)
  • Extra care during first 3-5 days
  • Crushing should be minimized
  • Special care should be given during birth
  • Assist piglets to suck milk
  • Colostrum should be available to all piglets
  • Do supplement feeding or fostering if the sow does not have enough milk
  • Start solid feeding as early as possible
  • Wean not earlier than 21 days
  • Prevent anemia – supplement iron
Here are some post-farrowing activities:
  • Needle teeth are clipped shortly after birth. Runt piglets maybe the exception.
  • Tails are docked shortly after birth although some farms do not practice taildocking.
  • Piglets are injected with iron, preferably 200 mg, at 3-5 days of age. A second dose maybe required by pale piglets when they are 10 days old.
  • Navel cords are left to fall off on their own or it maybe cut once dried, and should be disinfected.
  • Piglets in good health are castrated at 5-10 days of age.
  • Bathing of sows is recommended 1 week after farrowing. On the other hand, make sure that piglets will not get wet. Also, the pen should dry -off as fast as possible. In practice, this means that lactating sows should be bathed when there is enough sunlight getting into the pen to facilitate drying. Otherwise, piglets should be removed during bathing and put back after had dried up considerably.

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