Plan Before Sow Farrowing Time to Prevent Pig Losses

Learn pig care and management now to prevent piglet mortality during farrowing time.

| January/February 1977

  • Baby pig with Mom
    Keeping the mother sow healthy can help reduce baby pig mortality rate at farrowing time.

  • Baby pig with Mom

Baby pig mortality is a serious problem for the homestead hog raiser. Experts say that of all piglets born alive at farrowing, almost 25 percent, one in four, will die before they're old enough to wean.

Why such a high death rate? A major university survey concludes that most infant pig deaths arise either from disease, or poor pre — and post — natal management. Fortunately for us, both of these ticklish areas can be carefully monitored on a small homestead, which means that you and I have an excellent chance of beating the 1in 4 infant mortality odds and keeping our hog raising operations solidly in the black.

A newborn piglet is indeed a fragile creature. He enters the world without a single disease-fighting antibody in his system. In fact, the 3 pound babe is — except for his intense will to survive — entirely defenseless against disease and mistreatment. And that makes it essential that we remove every possible threat to the young animal's survival.

Importance of Swine Health

The logical place to start our pig loss prevention program, then, is with the mother sow (who is, in a very real sense, the piglet's only life-support system).

Your first step — two weeks before farrowing — should be to worm the expectant sow with a medication obtained from either a vet or a feed dealer. Once a hog picks up roundworms, whipworms, or other internal parasites — and begins to excrete masses of eggs in the feces — a vicious cycle of reinfection tone that's almost certain to afflict the mother's litter is established. And with the young pigs already short on disease resistance, an infestation of worms is sure to complicate things in a hurry. The same goes for external parasites, such as lice. If we expect to extract the most from our pig investment dollars, we've got to start by pulling a few bucks into the worming and delousing of every expectant coca two weeks before the end of her 115-day gestation.  

Another equally important link in the chain of prenatal care is immunization of the mother against erysipelas (pronounced ear-uh-SIP-less). In its acute form, this ailment — probably THE most common of all swine diseases — causes a temperature of 107 to 108 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees above normal), painfully swollen joints, and light-red to dark-purplish discoloration of the skin around the snout, ears, and abdomen. It can also cause the sudden and unexpected death of two-to-four  week-old suckling pigs.


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