In case of emergency such as an orphaned piglet or litter, harmed piglet, or unsafe mom/environment, intervention may be needed to save a litter or a piglet. It is not recommended or acceptable to remove a piglet or litter from the sow unless it is to save a life.
- In the first 24 hours of a piglet’s life it is essential that it gets the first milk or colostrum from mother. This milk increases a piglet’s protection against bacteria and viruses. If a piglet or litter has been orphaned and the mother is unable to provide the colostrum a colostrum replacer or goat’s colostrum are the best choice for feed the first 24-48 hours of life.
- The piglet or piglets are unable to produce their own body heat, so they must have a heat source that will keep them 85-90 degrees with no drafts. A heat lamp or heating pad are a good source. Straw bedding, small blankets that will not trap the piglet can also provide warmth. Their area must be kept dry and warm.
- Piglets need feeding every 1-2 hours the first 24-48 hours allowing the piglet to take in what it can of the colostrum.
- Bottle feeding is never recommended. Pan or syringe feeding is the preferred method to deliver the colostrum. Bottle feeding is associated with a risk of aspiration that can lead to respiratory issues, such as pneumonia which can be fatal quickly.
- Syringe feeding can be done slowly and gentle, but never forcing the colostrum into the piglets mouth. Gentle, slow drops of colostrum and measuring the consumption and times to track intake.
- Pan feeding is a preferred method that may take a bit of persistence and patience, but safer intake of colostrum and eventually milk replacer or goat’s milk.
- To initiate pan feeding simply dip your finger in the colostrum and apply to piglets mouth. Try this over and over allowing the piglet to take the colostrum from you finger while drawing the piglet closer to the shallow dish. Bring the piglet close enough over time so that the snout is over the dish and the piglet can be lead to dip a snout in and drink. If this method is not effective you can be more direct and dip the piglet’s snout into the pan of colostrum 2-3 times. If you have a piglet that is successfully pan feeding allow it to teach the others.
- Once the piglet or piglets have received the 24-48 hours of colostrum or colostrum replacer they can receive goat’s milk. This can be fresh goat’s milk or the canned or powered from the grocery. All species milk replacer from the feed or farm supply store is also a good choice for supplementing. Again, this should be from a shallow dish and offered every 2-3 hours.
- Infant rice cereal can be added to the milk to gradually thicken over time and add extra nutrients. By the end of 4-5 weeks of pan feeding that milk can be thickened with cereal to the consistency of oatmeal. Thickening can ease the transition to pellets.
- At 3-5 weeks pellets can be added to the milk and cereal and dissolved to form a mash, allowing the piglets to get a taste for the pellets. Gradually cut back on the amount of milk/cereal leaving only pellets over time.