This past week at the MSU Swine Teaching and Research Facility has been ‘Farrowing week’, farrowing is the term used when a sow births piglets. Throughout the week 51 sows have had their litters, the largest litter was 18 piglets and the smallest litter was 3 piglets. This is an undesirably large gap of piglets born alive but it’s unfortunately typical on the MSU farm, the ideal litter size would be between 12-15 piglets per sow.
After the piglets are born, they are given a shot of a slow release antibiotic called ‘Excede’, this helps boost their immune system for the first few hours of their life. After a sow is finished farrowing she is given oxytocin, which is a muscle relaxant, oxytocin is administered in order to help release any placenta or piglets that may be retained. Twelve hours after piglets are born they are processed, processing consists of ear notching for identification, tail docking to prevent tail-biting at an older age, and then given a shot of iron. Since the piglets do not have access to dirt which contains iron, piglets may suffer from iron deficiency, in order to prevent this they are given a .25 ml shot of iron.
This entire week has been surrounded around farrowing, therefore, there has been little else going on. Every morning I have been going into work at 2:00 am to monitor each sow that may have started farrowing in the night. I stay with any sows until they are finished or until the rest of the employees arrive at 7am and take over. Piglets will stay on the sow for 20 to 28 days, afterwords the piglets are weaned off the sow and moved to a nursery room, there, they are fed pelleted feed. Once the sows are finished farrowing, sows and piglets will be monitored to ensure sow recovery and piglet survivability, the goal is to maximize the number of piglets weaned. This has been a very eventful week and the first week after farrowing is just as important to ensure piglet survivability.