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Using early suckling behavior and weight gain to identify piglets at risk



Using early suckling behavior and weight gain to identify piglets at risk



Canadian Journal of Animal Science 69(3): 535-544



We examined whether characteristics and behavior of the newborn piglet could be used to identify later mortality and poor growth. Thirty-seven litters were classified as having no mortality (n = 12), low mortality (one or two deaths, n = 17) or high mortality (three or more deaths, n = 8). The eight high-mortality litters accounted for 61% of the deaths. Starvation was the most common cause of death in the high-mortality litters while others causes predominated in low-mortality litters. The mortality in a litter was correlated with 3-d weight gain of the survivors suggesting that low milk production by the sow was a major cause of death. During the first 10 h of litter age, teat disputes were more frequent, total time fighting was longer, and synchrony between piglets in suckling developed more slowly in the high-mortality litters. Piglets that died did not differ from the surviving piglets in birth order. However, they tended to have lower birth weights, suckled less often, suckled fewer teats, took a larger proportion of their suckling bouts on the three anterior teat pairs, and were less successful in teat disputes. Piglets that had poor 10-d gains tended to spend a long time fighting, won few teat disputes and suckled less frequently during the first hours after birth, but the correlations were small. Thus, high-mortality litters can be identified before deaths occur. Early identification will improve the efficiency of management programs such as attendance at farrowing and early intervention and thus increase the survival and well-being of piglets.

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Accession: 001997827

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DOI: 10.4141/cjas89-066


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