Effect of sow management and farrowing physiology on piglets’ vitality, immunity and growth

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


Use of hyper-prolific sow lines have increased litter size considerably in the last three decades. Nowadays, in some countries litters can reach up to 18-20 piglets being a major challenge for the sow’s physiology during pregnancy,
parturition and lactation. The increased number of piglets born per litter, prolong sensibly the duration of farrowing, decreases the piglets’ average weight at birth and their vitality, increases the competition for colostrum intake, and can affect negatively piglets’ survival. Large litters are difficult to manage also during lactation, because sows can have averagely 14-16 teats, however not all teats may be active. Large litters have a direct impact also on piglets at birth. The higher is the number of piglet born in a litter, the lower is the piglet birthweight and the higher is the variation in piglet birthweight within the litter. A greater number of piglets born than the available teats at the sow’s udder, a lower birthweight and a greater birthweight variation, all increase the piglets’ competition for colostrum intake. Similarly, lower birthweight and long farrowing duration are associated with lower piglet vitality at birth, which can delay the access to the udder. A reduced colostrum intake in the first 24 h of life has negative effects on the piglets survival and growth. Neonate piglets must acquire maternal immunoglobulins from ingested colostrum for passive immune protection, before they will adequately produce own immunoglobulins around 3-4 weeks of age. Therefore, it is clear that colostrum yield by the sow, colostrum uptake by the piglets and colostrum quality (immunoglobulins) are of fundamental importance in modern pig production. Restraining sows in crates before parturition may prevent normal movement and expression of natural mothering behaviour, such as nest building. This innate behaviour is hormonally driven, mainly by progesterone and prolactin, the same hormones responsible of the farrowing process and colostrum production. There is some evidence that crated sows not allowed to perform nest building behaviour, have longer farrowing, give birth to less vital piglets and produce less colostrum. Changes in dietary composition, specific feeding strategies or management of sows are common practices to improve sow colostrum yield. Diet can influence also the intestinal microbiota of the sow, such that promoting specific microbiota is connected with better performances of the sow. These beneficial microbiota, can be also indirectly transferred from the sow to the piglets improving their growth and survival. Appropriate management of late gestation, farrowing and lactation are important keys to improve piglets’ survival and growth.
Period23 Oct 2019
Event titleLevucell SB international technical meeting
Event typeConference
LocationPasteur Institute, Paris, France
Degree of RecognitionInternational