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Colostrum, the elixir of life

A sow’s own colostrum is irreplaceable for the new born piglet! Only maternal immune cells derived from its’ own mother can cross the intestinal wall of the piglets and thereby activate an immune-system. Healthy and thriving sows will produce plenty colostrum. A piglet requires about 250 g each day. The colostrum contains many immunoglobulins (IgA, IgG and IgM) providing protection against viruses and bacteria. Colostrum also contains:

  • Fat as a source of energy
  • Essential amino-acids required for the physiological development of piglets
  • Anti-inflammatory substances protecting against intestinal infection
  • Essential growth factors/hormones which stimulate intestinal growth and development of liver, kidneys, brain, etc.

Of special interest are the so-called “opium-like proteins” found in colostrum. These substances enhance the bond between sow and piglets and make them feel sleepy and relaxed!

Every piglet must take in a large amount of high quality colostrum

► Within 20 minutes of reaching the teat

► The first 3 hours post-partum are critical

► A piglet should suckle 15 times during the first 12 hours!

► Splitnursing the first-born piglets

► Energy

► Nutrients

► Antibodies

Be aware of the following factors to ensure that every piglet takes in sufficient high quality colostrum:

  • Quiet environment, stress free sows in recumbent position
  • 3 litres of water per minute available (freeflow capacity)
  • Cool environment for the sow (21°C)
  • Body temperature < 39.3°C
  • Mat behind the sow (rubber, textile)
  • Clean and disinfected pens
  • Rub piglets dry, treat splay-leg pigs
  • No further treatments on day of birth
  • Pig nest at least 35°C, if requiredusing jute bag; there should be no huddling
  • Every hour systematic animal inspection in rooms where farrowings take place


Figure 1 Image

Hint: Split nursing

By locking away the first born piglets in a litter the remaining piglets will get a better chance to take in more colostrum