tant management tool to prevent unnecessary suffering of pathologically growth-retarded piglets.

Supplementary heating For all piglets, use of supplementary radiant heating at the birth site and adjacent to the udder, where piglets spend the early hours of postnatal life, will improve piglet survival. Low viability piglets which fail to suckle can show a reduction in body temperature of 4–5°C within the first 30 minutes of life. While heated creep areas separate to the sow are regularly used in farrowing houses, piglets in the first 24–48 hours of life prefer to spend time at the udder, and vulnerable piglets may not survive this period. Provision of under-floor heating for 24 hours in the nest-area in loose-housed farrowing pens has improved survival, and deep-straw bedding has particu- larly effective insulating properties and is used effectively by outdoor and loose-housed indoor producers with demonstra- ble positive effects on piglet survival.

Ensuring colostrum intake Even if the micro-climate can be optimised, there are finite windows within which piglets must ingest colostrum, not only to acquire the necessary immunoglobulins of which they are born naïve, but more urgently to thermoregulate and bal- ance energy. Farrowing supervision promotes targeted inputs by stock people to assist piglets with important first-time landmark behaviours – getting quickly to the udder and suckling good quality colostrum. Ingestion of the biological mother’s colostrum is thought to be optimal, but additional colostrum supplementation, when correctly administered, has been found to be effective in these at-risk populations.

Figure 3 - The relationship between litter size, average birth weight and the proportion of piglets with IUGR head morphology in a UK herd (1,575 farrowings). Ave BWT PROP IUGR

Linear (Ave BWT) 2500 2000 1500 1000 500 0

<6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Litter size

Source: S.M. Matheson, G. Walling, S.A. Edwards, unpublished. 15 16 17 18 19 20 >21 Linear (PROP IUGR)

0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6


Split suckling Split suckling involves splitting the litter into two groups, of- ten heaviest and lightest or strongest and weakest, and re- moving the more advantaged of these groups for a set period of time to allow uncompetitive suckling for those remaining at the udder. Implementing split suckling quickly after farrowing should allow all piglets access to colostrum and therefore acquisition of passive immunity.

Cross-fostering Cross-fostering involves removing some or all piglets from their birth sow to a foster sow, or exchanging piglets be- tween sows depending on their size, vigour and gender, as well as physical characteristics of the sow’s udder. If per- formed correctly, grouping small piglets on a suitable sow, cross-fostering gives piglets enhanced survival prospects and can reduce the need for further management interventions for piglets that would otherwise suffer from remaining in a large litter.

Artificial rearing systems If the number of piglets born exceeds the number of availa- ble teats, nurse sow strategies can be used to accommodate the excess. Artificial rearing systems remove the need for nurse sows, which some farms find difficult to manage. Here, some of the stronger piglets are removed from their mothers at two to 14 days old and transferred to specialised enclo- sures which are typically located either in a separate room or above the sow’s farrowing crate (e.g. rescue decks). These en- closures provide the piglets with warmth, milk replacer and solid food. Such systems are being increasingly used in some countries to deal with surplus piglets, but require a high level of management to function successfully and are prohibited in other countries because of welfare concerns.

Significant economic and welfare problem IUGR has become a significant economic and welfare prob- lem in the modern industry and urgently needs to be ad- dressed by all available methods. To reduce the number of IUGR piglets born, genetic selection strategies for higher individual birth weight or reduced prev- alence of piglets IUGR morphology can be employed. In addi- tion, management strategies are still required to deal with these low viability piglets when they occur.

References available on request.

* This article is an edited and approved version of a chapter in the book ‘Nutrition of Hyperprolific Sows’, published by Novus International, November 2019. A digital version of the book is available for free at

36 ▶PIG PROGRESS | Volume 36, No. 4, 2020

Average birth weight (g)

Proportion of piglets with IUGR-morphology

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