How to Raise Pigs on Milk Replacer

Written by cate burnette
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Twenty per cent of newborn pigs die shortly after birth because of crushing injuries inflicted by the sow or because of hypothermia (cold), say livestock experts at the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries. In their article "Basic Pig Husbandry--The Litter," Graeme Taylor and Greg Roese state that piglets that are the smallest in the litter will not only suffer these ailments, they will die from starvation because they cannot push themselves to a teat. Farmers and pig owners should hand-raise these runts on sow milk replacer to let them survive.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Sow colostrum
  • Syringe
  • Pig rearing quarters with heating pad or heat lamp
  • Sow milk replacer
  • Human baby bottle with nipple
  • Iron Dextran with needle and syringe; or iron paste
  • Pig creep

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Feed your new piglets 20 to 30ml of sow's colostrum using a syringe. They need feeding with the colostrum every two hours from birth for the first seven to eight hours of life to ingest the mother's antibodies and receive necessary nutrients. If sow's colostrum is not available, you can use cow colostrum.

  2. 2

    Keep your piglets in rearing quarters that are clean, free of drafts and warm; 29.4 to 32.2 degrees Celsius is vital for survival of the litter since they cannot generate their own heat. Some commercial rearing units come complete with heating elements, a meshed dunging area and automatic feeders.

  3. 3

    Hand-feed your litter 40 to 50ml of sow milk replacer every four to six hours using a human baby bottle and teat after they ingest the colostrum. Allow the babies to eat 20 to 30ml of milk every 60 to 90 minutes if you feed with an automatic feeder. Continue this schedule, gradually increasing the amount, until the piglets eat 80ml to 100ml per feeding without stopping. Feed this increased amount of milk replacer to the litter on their regular time schedule until weaning occurs in approximately 30 days.

  4. 4

    Inject the orphans with 2cc of Iron Dextran intramuscularly or administer a weight appropriate dose of iron paste when the babies are two to three days old. Dispensing this mineral protects the piglets from the anaemia that occurs when the newborns do not receive the sow's colostrum.

  5. 5

    Introduce the litter to a semi-solid food gradually once they are seven to 10 days old. Wean the piglets totally to a milk-based starter feed (semi-solid creep) once they reach 12 to 14 pounds of weight, usually a month after birth.

Tips and warnings

  • ThePigSite.com, a website for the swine industry, states that while sow's milk replacer is ideal, goat's milk replacer can be used. In the article "Hand Rearing a Piglet," they do not recommend that cow's milk be fed the newborn because it can cause gastrointestinal distress.
  • Colostrum and milk replacers require that they be kept frozen until they are ready to be used. Both must be warmed to body temperature and you should use a human baby bottle and nipple for the first few days of feedings. You can teach the piglets to drink from an automatic feeder by dipping their noses into a bowl full of milk after several days.
  • If the newborns are particularly weak, you may need to inject them with 10ml of a 20 per cent glucose solution to prevent them from becoming hypoglycaemic, going into a coma and dying. Your veterinarian can show you how to inject your litter with any medications.
  • Overfeeding the piglets leads to digestive upsets. Long-term feeding on milk replacers (without adding solid food and/or past the recommended weight limit) may bring on scours, a newborn diarrhoea that can be fatal.

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