Institute of Organic Farming
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Diminishing piglet losses: Effects of a prolonged suckling period
Organic and conventionel sows have the same litter size but organic piglet production is characterised by a lower number of sold piglets per litter - possibly by reason of the, to all intents and purposes, well-intentioned suckling period of usually 6 weeks.
The organic piglet suckling period typically takes about 6 weeks due to the minimum requirement of 40 days of the EC Regulation 2092/91. But piglets weaned in such a period
are often characterized by less performance and bad health status. It was the aim of the present study to examine whether a prolonged suckling period of 63 days results in better performance (module 1, testing station of the Thuenen Institute) and immune status (module 2, LMU Munic - Chair of Animal Welfare, Ethology, Animal Hygiene and Animal Housing) of the piglets.
Therefore, 36 sows were divided into 2 groups of 18 sows each as a control group with 42 days of suckling period and
a test group with 63 days of suckling period. The rearing period for both the control group and the test group ended on day 77 p.n. In module 1, three farrowing cycles with 108 litters were recorded; in module 2, only the last two farrowing cycles with 72 litters were recorded.
The extended suckling period of 9 weeks resulted in
- a significantly improved growth rate, in a significantly reduced number of medically treated piglets, and did not affect the body condition and teats of the sows negatively (module 1).
- the same immune status of piglets with a 6 weeks suckling period.
A prolongation of the suckling period compared to the minimum requirement of the EEC Regulation 2092/91 is recommended.
12.2004 - 12.2007
Project funding number: 03oe378
Funding program: Bundesprogramm Ökologischer Landbau und andere Formen nachhaltiger Landwirtschaft (BÖLN)
Project status: finished