Insufficient energy intake
Energy intake is the most critical factor in determining piglet survival during the first 3 days of life. Large litters are susceptible to higher mortality because of lower birth weight and increased competition over teats.
Different energy sources and their importance for newborns
The sow’s colostrum is an essential source of antibodies (providing immunity) as well as the main source of dietary energy: intake of at least 250 grammes/piglet should be the target. Further research is required into understanding better the factors during last third of gestation which influence the amount and quality of colostrum produced. Endogenous glycogen-reserves in newborn piglets i.e. those present before suckling, last only for about 16 hours (see picture). These reserves are consumed faster when body-temperature needs to be maintained due to a cold environment (hypothermia). Only after about 1.5 days does the sow produce enough milk to cover the full energy needs of the litter!