Can Piglets Be Left To Wean Naturally?

I am often asked about weaning piglets and I thought that Katie had an interesting question that asked if it’s ok for piglets to be left to wean naturally.

“Hi,the time has come to wean my 8 week old piglets but i really dont want to yet do i really have to cant i leave them to wean naturally? Katie”

Hi Katie,

Firstly have you been supplementing the piglets milk from the sow with creep feed, if not then you will need to do this before they are weaned as a quick change in their diet will upset their stomaches and give them scours.

Also you will need to consider the sow, in the wild the sow would naturally wean her piglets herself, so you could leave the piglets with the sow and I have read that she should naturally wean them herself by week 12. However if the sow has alot of piglets and their teeth have not been clipped and the sow is still feeding the piglets then you need to consider the condition of her teats and the amount of milk she is producing. Producing milk for along time makes the sow loose condition. Also if she is feeding alot of piglets it can take it out of her, especially as the piglets get bigger. The piglets teeth can scar the teats and this can lead to mastitis once the piglets are weaned.

Weaning can cause stress for the piglets. It is always best to remove the sow and not the piglets. Also if you do wean the piglets you only want to do this on that day, for example you don’t want to tag the piglets that day as well as they will get stressed.

I usually wean my piglets at week 8, although the sows only move to the next barn where they can still see and hear the sows so it could be seen as less stressfull for the piglets. I found that Cagney who was feeding 15-16 piglets on her last litter with 14 teats was releieved when I weaned the piglets at 8 weeks. When I moved her to the next door barn she actually laid down and had a rest and you could see the relief that when she laid down there were no piglets trying to suckle her, so observing the habits of your sow may be an indication if it’s time to wean the piglets. Is the sow looking tired, does she lay down and then get up quickly when piglets try to suckle, does she try to move away from the piglets? These may all be signs she is wanting the piglets to be weaned.

When weaning piglets the sow can be vulnerable to mastitis and when I weaned piglets at 6 weeks once my sows got mastitis. A tip to avoid this maybe to leave a runt or two with the sow and let them continue to suckle for another week or so until the sows milk dries up. You do need to be careful that these piglets when added back to the group don’t fight with the other weaners as separated pigs will fight.

Hope this info is of use to you. Hope the sow and piglets are doing well. I will add your question to the farmingfriend’s pig forum as I know that Topveg is a pig expert and may have some advice.

Kind regards

Sara @ farmingfriends

A useful book for a new pig keeper and breeder is the book Starting With Pigs by Andy Case.

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