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Suckling behaviour of sow and piglets

The sow should lie in a recumbent position and invite piglets with specific sounds expressing the desire for milk let-down. Piglets will normally try to have facial contact with the sow’s head to stimulate milk release. To ensure  optimal interaction between a sow and her piglets, it is important to avoid treating piglets during the first 10 days after birth and, thereafter, when multiple treatments are required, they should be grouped together to minimize the number of interventions.

Risk for the sow when piglets show impaired suckling behaviour:

Figure 1 Image

  • Milk is not released
  • Acute painful accumulation of milk in the udder
  • Inflammatory reaction
  • Hormonal inbalance
  • Premature arrest of milk production
  • Irregular return to oestrus


Many hours after being treated these piglets have not yet attempted to suckle.




Stimulating suckling behaviour

Normal suckling behaviour:

Sows in a farrowing room will normally stimulate and synchronise each other to suckle their piglets by making ‘pulsatory’ sounds. When sows are not synchronously suckling, irregular or lack of sounds can be seen as a warning signal.

Oxytocin-release in the sow causes a contraction of the udder-segments for a maximum of approximately 1 minute. In this way milk is available every hour both day and night! The hourly release of milk in the first days after farrowing is important to establish milk-production later on.

The sow lies in a recumbent position and invites the piglets to suckle by making a specific sound.