Weaning time and technique will differ from litter to litter and sow to sow. It’s important to know your pigs so that you may be able to read from them when the piglets need to begin the weaning process. Some sows tend to mother longer than others. Many sows begin to lose weight rapidly and need more assistance. Weaning age should be determined by watching the sow’s body condition, milk supply, overall behavior with the litter, and the piglets weight gain or lack there of.
Handling the piglets at a young age is important for socialization. You should leave the sow alone with her piglets for the first day to two and not disturb them. This ensures that the piglets receive proper amounts of colostrum and the antibodies needed to survive. Contributing to a healthy start at life. When the sow is more comfortable and the piglets are thriving, you may begin handling them to the sow’s level of acceptance in doing so.Piglets being to eat with their mother at about 7-10 days old. They will not eat enough to survive without their mother’s milk, but begin to “nibble.” Some breeders will set up a creep feeder to allow piglets to eat free choice pellets at this time.
When the weaning process starts, at the discretion of the breeder, piglets should be removed from the sow a few hours at a time. You may choose to take half the litter or the full litter. This also allows for more 1 on 1 socialization and begins the process of weaning. This will begin to happen earlier and more often with larger litters. Babies should be reunited with the mother every few hours during this process to eat and learn their manners from the sow. The smallest piglets, or the “runt” should be left with mom during these times or returned more often so that they can get plenty to eat. The weaning of all piglets should be gradual and never all at once. A gradual wean can help mother’s milk supply decrease as the piglets needs decline. This can aid in the prevention of mastitis in the sow.
When piglets are doing well, and all thriving without the need of their mother, the focus should turn to fully weaning the largest of the litter and leaving the smaller ones for further nutrition from the sow. Runts or small piglets can stay with the sow for at least 1-2 weeks longer than littermates.
All piglets should be eating pellets independently and fully weaned from the dam for at least 1-2 weeks before going to their new home.