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Taking Care of Baby Pigs: Processing Steps for Newborns

Friday, January 29, 2016

Breeding Stock Health & Nutrition

Nathan Weisinger, Fort Madison, Iowa, has a tried-and-true system of processing baby pigs at Weisinger Farms. From the time one of his 150 sows farrow until each litter is weaned, he follows a vaccination protocol that helps maintain healthy pigs. Giving vaccines ensures a strong beginning of life for any animal. Weisinger follows a standard protocol to ensure pigs have a healthy life, and he says starting them off right gives them a healthy end as well.

On day one, Weisinger and his crew will pick up every hog and ear notch it. He gives a 1.5 CC shot of iron and also docks each tail. Another must-do is giving them a 0.2 of a CC shot of Excede, a penicillin-type medication that will stay in their system longer than a simple penicillin shot.

One part of the routine that Weisinger has changed over the past few years is clipping needle teeth. He says his father is an advocate of this, but like many producers, they have discontinued this step from processing newborns. Clipping these teeth opens one more spot on the animal for infection, and today Weisinger says it seems pointless to cut them.

Preventing and Treating Scours

During the first three days of a baby pig’s life Weisinger utilizes a drying agent called Absorb. When the farrowing crate mat is constantly wet there is a chance the pig will get scours. To prevent this, Weisinger places the Absorb down as a disinfecting agent and drying powder in areas under a heat lamp.

Another farrowing crate tip Weisinger shared is using potato starch to dry pens. He says there’s added value in the nutrition of potato starch, and his baby pigs love it.

“They eat it, and it helps with loose stool issues,” he says. “I have a lot less issues with pigs getting loose on momma’s milk when I add the potato starch in as a factor.”

If a pig does get scours while it is still nursing Weisinger gives it a shot of Gentamicin. And, he believes if one pig in the litter has a loose stool, the others will too, so he vaccinates them all for scours at the same time

Continuing the Health Protocol

Two weeks later, days 14 through17, Weisinger administers another 0.5 CC dose of Excede to all pigs. This medicine, he says, is good for five days so one more dose of Excede helps ensure his pigs are as healthy as possible.

“Given what they’re worth, we’re pretty aggressive during their first two months of life,” he says. “Also, at that time we will go through and castrate all males unless we think they’ll be kept as a boar pig. I try to castrate while they’re on the sow as much as possible so hogs will feel better and have less issues in the long run.”

Weisinger is a believer in sow’s milk as a healing agent and that cutting big hogs later can lead to increased swelling and cross infections. Castrating older male pigs increases stress and requires more medicine management.

“I don’t want swelling issues so I really try to get them cut as quickly as possible” Weisinger says. “I’ve been fortunate to have raised quite a few show boars so I may leave a few more intact than necessary at times.”

The next big move comes on day 21 when weaning begins. Weisinger says they receive one CC dose of CircoFlex and two CCs of Respi-sure one / ER Bac plus. This may be one of the most important steps health-wise for baby pigs, he says.

“All the pigs in the world need the Circo and Respi-sure one / ER Bac plus shot in them,” he says. “Two weeks later we do the Respi-sure one / ER Bac plus again. It’s essential to the pigs’ health. This keeps them healthy and rolling, which is important because the next phase is long-term when they go to their future exhibitors.”

Weisinger says the protocol starts when pigs are born. Keeping them warm and dry and administering the right medicines and vaccines at the right times is an essential part of raising good show pigs. He says pigs that have been set back early as a newborn always have a chance to improve and roll on. Never give up on that little pig, Weisinger says.

“A hog set back early in life can do well and be successful in the ring,” he says. “I’ve seen numerous set-back hogs that with the right care and management come back and beat their older, stronger brother. It’s a whole new ball game when they’re given a healthy start.”