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Litter Swapping

by 5m Editor
22 December 2008, at 12:00am

A practical introduction from BPEX to the swapping of complete litters, rather than cross-fostering individual piglets.

Cross fostering is a recommended practice used to even up litter sizes and piglet birthweights after farrowing. If piglets then start to fall behind, they will often be swapped with a stronger piglet from another litter, or a new litter is created for the fading piglets However, every time piglets are mixed with new litter mates it takes time for them to re-establish the suckling hierarchy, and it can result in a lack of feed intake and reduced performance.

Swapping whole litters will reduce the stress normally experienced by the piglets from being moved and mixed with a group of new litter mates, whilst providing the weaker piglets the opportunity to recover through improved milk intake.

Equipment required Personal Safety
  • Piglet booster
  • Fostering box/trolley
  • Marker pen/spray
  • Chalk
N/A

The process


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"A strong uniform litter can encourage a sow that is showing signs of poor milk production to start producing milk again"

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"As soon as there are signs of reduced performance and one or more piglets are falling behind, the litter swap should be carried out"
  • Move the whole litter when it contains a number of piglets that are showing signs of reduced viability, onto a sow which is milking well
  • The receiving sow must either be a young sow or previously have been a foster sow and she must be suckling a strong and uniform litter
  • Move the strong litter to the sow from which the poorer litter came
  • After the swap the sows will follow their normal feed curves

Remember

  • The age gap between the two litters must not exceed four days
  • There must be the same number of piglets in both litters
  • All the piglets must be healthy
  • The swap between the litters must be direct eg the sows should not be without piglets for an extended period
  • After the swap give special treatment to the poorer litter eg an extra heat lamp, a squirt of piglet booster etc.

Swapping litters

A successful swap will lead to more uniform piglets, improved piglet performance and reduced mortality If the swap is too late, piglets may be too weak to suckle; they will fall behind further and mortality will increase

The swap is likely to fail if:


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"Vigilance is key for litter swapping to be a successful management tool"
  • The swap is too late; the piglets in the poor litter may be too weak to suckle
  • The sow with the poor litter is ill
  • The poor litter is ill
  • The sow has poor mothering ability and does not let piglets suckle
  • The litter is restless because the sow is unwilling to let them suckle

December 2008