Healthy pig development: it all starts straight after birth

10 March 2023
3 minutes

‘A good start is half the battle’ is a quote by Plato and sums up what needs to be done to keep pigs healthy. Giving piglets the best possible start in life ensures a more robust animal; one that is less dependent on antibiotics and better able to withstand challenges later in life.

The Natural Power of the animal

Newly born piglets have an immature immune system and rely on maternal immunity to remain healthy. This requires a sufficient intake of good-quality colostrum equivalent to 250 grams per piglet (Farmer et al. 2019).

If sows are in good health and well fed, then the volume of colostrum, or the quantity of antibodies the colostrum contains, is most likely sufficient to deliver the necessary immunity. The piglets will then be protected during the first weeks of life. In addition, colostrum management after birth has a significant impact on the immunity piglets receive and should not be compromised.

But there is more

As well as providing immunity, nutrients passed down by the sow also stimulate the development of the gut and other essential organs, which is necessary for good growth and performance later in life. Piglets with a higher nutrient intake experience better development of the gastrointestinal tract, making it essential to stimulate nutrient intake straight after birth. This can be done by stimulating milk yield from the sow, milk intake by the piglet and by stimulating nutrient intake from creep feed.

Stimulating nutrient intake with feed starts with high-quality feed. It should be easily digestible with a consistent composition. The right feeding strategies will help to further optimise feed intake and the development of the young animal, preparing it for the rest of its life. Finally, the impact of effective health management should not be underestimated. Animals kept in good conditions are more active and more inclined to eat more feed. Good conditions include low infection pressure and good hygiene, correct temperature, no draft and proper ventilation.

Long-term effects

Animals that begin life under optimal conditions are better equipped to withstand future challenges. This means they will stay healthier and achieve higher levels of production, compared with animals that experience a sub-optimal start. Taking good care of young animals pays off.

A hands-on, targeted approach

Our hands-on Natural Power programme brings together all these insights and more to help you improve animal health and optimise performance on your farm while supporting the prudent use of antibiotics.

Learn more about the Natural Power programme