Newly Born Piglets – Can They Go Outside?

I’ve received an email from Graham asking about putting his newly born piglets outside.

“Just had a litter of pigs born will they go outside if it is muddy or shall I bring them in?”

Here is my response to the question and also a response from another reader.

Hi Graham,
Congratulations on the birth of your piglets. Where did the sow farrow, outdoors or inside? If it was outside then I would make sure that the shelter has plenty of fresh clean straw and bales around it for insulation and to keep the piglets protected from wind, rain and direct sunlight when it is hot, so that the piglets are kept warm, dry and don’t get sunstroke.
If they were born inside then they usually have a heat lamp for the first few days/week.
If the piglets are reared outside then they will get iron from the soil and grass they root about in but if indoors give them a piece of turf to root about on and access to water at all times for both indoor and outdoor piglets.
Hope the piglets are doing well – what sort of pigs are they?
Kind regards
Sara @ farmingfriends

Hi all

I have had two sows pig outside and in very wet conditions. The first Sow had 13 piglets 1 month ago and 10 survive. The three that died did so within 24 hours of birth and it probably had a lot to do with the bad weather at the time.

The second sow had 10 piglets and again 3 died in similar circumstances to the above. These are now 1 week old.

All are now well and and they are thriving.

I would think that if Grahams’ piglets have somewhere dry to lie and sleep, and they are feeding well enough from the mother then all will probably be ok. If they have survived thus far then there is probably little to be gained by bringing them in at this stage

Regards

Michael

Things to consider when putting piglets outside:

  • Shelter – make sure it has plenty of fresh clean straw and bales around it for insulation.
  • Shelter has plenty of room for sow to feed the piglets easily without laying on any of the piglet.
  • Weather – keep the piglets protected from wind, rain and direct sunlight when it is hot, so that the piglets are kept warm, dry and don’t get sunstroke.
  • Make sure they have a source of iron – if outside they should get iron from the soil and grass they root about in.
  • Access to water at all times.

If anyone has any experiences of rearing piglets outdoors from birth then we would love to hear your experiences.

Worming Piglets

Piglets should be wormed at about 2 months of age or when the piglets are weaned. A piglet that is not wormed will not grow as quickly or as well as wormed piglets. You can administer a wormer by injection, pouring a liquid wormer onto the back of the pig, by liquid in the water or a powdered wormer in the feed.

Outdoor piglets are more likely to pick up worms than indoor piglets but both can have worms.

Your vet will advise on the best course of treatment against worms for your herd of pigs and piglets.

Ivermectin wormers are a good treatment against a range of worms.

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

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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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Tip For Helping To Prevent Mastitis In Sow When Weaning Piglets

I was recently told by a neighbouring smallholder that a good tip to help prevent mastitis in a sow when weaning the piglets is when the piglets are weaned (about 8 weeks old) from the sow leave the runt with the sow.

  1. This will help to stop the sow from getting mastitis as the runt will drink the sows milk and stop the sow from drying up too quickly and the teats becoming infected.
  2. The runt will grow well and quickly on the sow’s milk.

If you have any advice for helping to prevent mastitis in sow’s at weaning time then please leave a comment.
A useful book for a new pig keeper and breeder is the book Starting With Pigs by Andy Case.

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Tips For Feeding A Slow Growing Runt

I was recently asked for some tips and advice about feeding a slow growing piglet.

“Dear Sara, I have a runt of a litter and he is growing very slow.  Do you have any advice? Jeff”

Tips and advice for feeding slow growing runts of litter.

  • A good tip is when the piglets are weaned (about 8 weeks old) from the sow leave the runt with the sow. One, this will help to stop the sow from getting mastitis and two, the runt will grow well and quickly on the sows milk and you can also supplement the milk from the sow with creep feed for the runt as well.
  • When piglets are very young they feed from the sow little and often so depending on the age of the piglet I think I would make up small amounts of milk and feed little and often.
  • Dependent on age bottle feeding can take place every 2- 4 hours.
  • Piglets can be fed sow milk powder, sow’s milk or baby milk.
  • Make sure the milk is at blood temperature.
  • A 3 week old piglet would get about 75-100ml 3 or 4 times a day.
  • Try to get the piglet to drink from a bowl as soon as possible so that it is less reliant on you.
  • Also consider feeding the runt separately so that the runt is not competing with other piglets. I recently hand reared a few piglets as the sows only had 14 teats and each had at least 16 piglets. 3 or 4 piglets from 2/3 weeks of age very quickly learnt to run out of the barn where they were with the sow and other piglets and into another room in the barn where they were given warm milk in a tray on the floor.
  • When the piglet is 7/8lbs try to move the piglet onto solid milk feed (creep feed) as this will avoid overfeeding and the possibility of the piglet getting the scouring illness. I would introduce the creep feed a little at a time as a sudden change in a pigs diet can lead to scours.
  • Once the piglet is on dry food it will then need fresh water although I have been recommended to have water available for hand reared piglets at all time which is advice I have always followed.
  • If the piglet is still very young, I would try to make the piglet as independent as possible so I would possibly start with the bottle feeding and then see if the piglet will take some of the milk from a bowl. They learn quickly to do this.
  • When they are old enough to be on creep feed, if you are still giving them milk, I would also have creep fed available for the runt.
  • I would also give the piglet a piece of turf with grass and soil and the piglet will root through this and get iron that will help prevent scours from occurring.

If you have any advice for Jeff about feeding a slow growing piglet then please leave a comment.

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

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Splay Legs In Piglets

Splay legs in piglets is when the newborn piglet is unable to hold the front and or back legs together. The piglet is unable to stand up properly and the front  and or hind legs will be spread out. The piglet also finds it difficult to walk and it is therefore difficult for the piglet to access the teat and get the colostrum and milk from the sow.

A piglet with splay legs will need to be hand reared as they can die if left to their own devices. If they are not given milk they find it difficult to get to the teat when the sow calls the piglets and then the piglet can starve to death or the piglet may be crushed if it cannot move away from the sow when she lays down.

Splay legs can be caused by:

    • Immaturity of the muscle fibres in the hind legs, over the pelvis and occasionally in the front legs.
    • Piglets standing on very smooth or wet slippery floors.
    • An aggressive farrowing sow snaffling the piglet and damaging the legs.

    I had a piglet with splay legs who I named Splays.

    Splays the splayed legged runt of the litter

    Splays the splayed legged runt of the litter

    He was hand reared and is a success story as he grew and left the farm at 8 weeks old to keep another runt of a litter company on another farm. You can read all about splays the Click here to read all about Splays the splay legged piglet.

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

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    If you keep pigs or are thinking of keeping pigs then join the free farmingfriends pig forum for the latest chat, advice and questions about pigs and pig related issues.

    Katie’s Kunekune Piglets

    Katie is a member of the farmingfriends forum and a reader of the farmingfriends website.

    Katie contacted me back in August and introduced me to her Kunekune pigs, Coleen, Wayne and Mable. Katie was unsure if Coleen was pregnant and it later turned out that she hadn’t been but she did finally get served by Wayne and on Saturday she finally farrowed and gave birth to nine healthy piglets. 4 brown 5 white with black spots. She farrowed in the early hours of the morning and delivered the piglets and cleaned them up all by herself.

    Katie is delighted and very proud. She has sent me these photos of the beautiful piglets.

    Nine Kunekune Piglets

    Nine Kunekune Piglets

    Kunekune Piglets Sleeping

    Kunekune Piglets Sleeping

    Kunekune Piglets

    Kunekune Piglets

    Kunekune Piglets

    Kunekune Piglets

    Kunekune Piglet

    Kunekune Piglet

    Thanks Katie for sharing these photos with us. Your piglets are beautiful and as a pig keeper and enthusiast myself it is very interesting to see how the kunekune piglets differ to my saddleback piglets.

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

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    If you keep pigs or are thinking of keeping pigs then join the free farmingfriends pig forum for the latest chat, advice and questions about pigs and pig related issues.

    Why Piglets Born Dead

    When I had farrowing gilts on the farm I have always been lucky enough to get live piglets, however sometimes piglets can be born dead but why is that?

    “Just wondering I have a gilt that just had her first litter. The first 5 were alive but the next 5 were all dead. This is the second gilt that has had this problem. do you know what might be the reason the second have are dying. Stacey”

    I wondered if may be the gilts had an illness but as I am not a vet or had more than 2 years experience with pigs it is hard to know what it could be. I have read that brucellosis and leptospirosis can have the symptoms of still born piglets. Infections or sickness could be the cause.

    There are many other factors that could affect the health of the piglets during pregnancy.

    If the gilt or sow becomes stressed, has a fight or a knock are factors that could all lead to stillborn piglets.

    The health of the gilt or sow can also impact on the health of the piglets. An over weight pig can have difficulty farrowing. A lack of vitamins such as vitamin E and A can affect the birth of piglets.

    The pigs diet can affect the health of the piglets and if moldy feed is also given to the gilt or sow then this could make the gilt or sow ill and then affect the piglet.

    I have been doing some reading on this subject and I have read that if a piglet dies at the beginning of a pregnancy then when the piglet is born it will be hard and may be starting to deteriorate.

    If the piglet dies just prior to birth then the piglet can look normal except it’s eyes may be sunken. One way to tell if a piglet died before birth or just after farrowing is to slice a piece of the piglet’s lung and place it in some water. If the piece of lung floats, it means that the piglet had breathed before death due to the presence of air in the lungs so, it was alive when it emerged.

    If you have come across some piglets being born alive and some being born dead in the same farrowing then please let us know what the cause was in that particular case as it may help Stacey to determine why her piglets died.

    Runt Of Litter Leaves Farm

    It is with a heavy heart that I write to say that my beloved little runt (Splays) of the piglets has left the farm. He has I am pleased to say gone to pig owners who have bought saddlebacks from us twice before and I know that he will be cared for well. He has gone to keep another runt of a litter company so it couldn’t be better for my beautiful wee piglet.

    Splays, the runt of the litter at 8 weeks old

    Splays, the runt of the litter at 8 weeks old

    I had named him Splays because he had splayed legs after the sow grabbed hold of him when she had finished farrowing. I spent the first few days of his life hand feeding Splays every few hours to make sure that he survived as he would never have been able to compete with the others to suckle from Lacy’s teats.

    Splays the splayed legged runt of the litter

    Splays the splayed legged runt of the litter

    Over the first week or so Splay’s legs got better and when all the piglets and sows were returned to the barn together he was wondering about and holding his own with the others.

    Between week two and week seven I fed splays four times a day in the other barn with some over piglets. They got milk four times a day but were also eating the creep feed. Once the piglets had had enough milk they would line up at the door.

    Splays, the runt, waiting to go back in the weaner barn

    Splays, the runt, waiting to go back in the weaner barn

    Slowly but surely Splays began to grow and it was a delight when he ate the creep feed. He is a clever piglet and knew that eating the pellets I gave him outside the weaner barn meant there would be less competition. Splays even managed to negotiate the step in and out of the barn and loved investigating the fold yard with some of the other braver piglets.

    Splays, the runt, eating creep feed pellets

    Splays, the runt, eating creep feed pellets

    Although I am pleased that Splays will be keeping another runt company, I will miss him dearly and would have happily kept him. He will be missed dearly but remembered with fond memories. He is truely a pig success story as he would never have lived without my intervention.

    Here’s to Splays, my beloved runt of the litter – hope you are enjoying your new home and new piggy and human friends!

    Do you keep pigs and have a favourite pig or a story about rearing a runt of the litter, if so, then farmingfriends would love to hear from you. I have also set  up a farmingfriends pig forum where you can ask questions, get advice or chat about pigs and piglets.

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

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    Click on the book image below to visit Amazon.co.uk to find out more about this book or visit one of the Farming Friends Bookshops.

    Saddleback Piglet Explores Farmyard

    My 7/8 week old saddleback piglet called Missy loves to explore the farmyard. She has been coming out of the pig barn to explore the farmyard for about 5 weeks. She was the first piglet to come down the barn steps and she loves to run the length of the fold yard and then to go and see what’s in the rest of the farmyard. She will always return to the barn to find the other piglets. it is great fun watching her running and playing in the farmyard. I love the way her ears jiggle up and down as she runs and her little legs scamper about the place. She is a delight to watch.

    I hope you have enjoyed this quick clip of Missy the saddleback piglet exploring the farmyard.