Tuesday, February 24, 2009

sow giving birth

The piglets come out a little wet, with their umbilical cord still attached. It tears pretty easily, so usually gets torn off by the piglet moving around after birth. Here a little piglet is about 10 seconds old.

They come out with their eyes closed and their ears flat against their heads. They rest a few seconds, open their eyes, and look around. It's an amazing thing that this little piglet is oriented and aware seconds after birth.
A little wiggling and the piglet starts to make its determined way around to the rows of teats. they're actually pretty agile at this point -- 2 minutes after birth.

Here the piglet finds its own personal nipple. As I've mentioned before -- this nipple will only be used by this piglet for the entire time it's nursing on the sow.

Another pig is born...
She's had 7 piglets so far, but we haven't seen the afterbirth yet, so there's probably a couple more to come. After she's all done we'll move her back into the hay barn where it's a little dryer and more sheltered and we've got some heat lamps set up for the piglets.


Anonymous said...

"As I've mentioned before -- this nipple will only be used by this piglet for the entire time it's nursing on the sow."

Not quite: http://www.thepigsite.com/stockstds/50/nursing-patterns

Teat order
1 Established within 3 days
2 Consistence often over 90%
3 Less stable in large litters
4 About 10% of piglets use more than one teat
5 Multiple teats more common in small litters
6 Unused teats regress
7 When sow turns over, so does the piglet teat order, it is teat specific

Bruce King said...

hmm... "over 90%" could mean 100%. That's been my experience with my pigs. I'll trust direct experience over theory any day of the week.

There's also no attribution of those figures on thepigsite -- so you can't look at the studies, or raw data, or methodology.

Anyone can write whatever they want on the internet. Just because someone wrote it somewhere doesn't automatically mean it's true, accurate or reliable. I'm also including myself in that.

Anonymous said...


Bruce King said...

so far you've come up with two different references that say that teat order is fixed 90% or more of the time. I think that means we agree.

Anonymous said...

"Here the piglet finds its own personal nipple.. this nipple will only be used by this piglet for the entire time it's nursing on the sow,"

Your statement, quoted above, implies a one-to-one mapping of teats to piglets. Your remark also says that teat order is established as soon as a pig comes out and finds its first nipple.

Teat order isn't established as each pig takes its first suck. Teat order is established over about a day.

There is no one-to-one mapping of piglets to teats. When that sow turns over, the pigs don't generally suck on their original nipple. They tend to suck on the corresponding nipple of their favorite teat-pair, not the original nipple.

And some sows wean more pigs than they have teats. In that case, more than one pig uses at least one nipple. Again, there is no one-to-one mapping of piglets to teats.

When a nipple fails to work while piglets are sucking, and the pig finds a new one and sucks, there is no longer (even if it existed) a one-to-one mapping of piglets to teats.

I'm just trying to help you be more accurate and informative. Whenever I see words like "only" and "entire time", I wonder if it is really true. Normally it isn't.

Anonymous said...

No, we don't agree.

Teat order isn't fixed as each piglet takes its first suck. They work out the teat order over time, and even then, it isn't necessarily fixed.

Your remark, "Here the piglet finds its own personal nipple. As I've mentioned before -- this nipple will only be used by this piglet for the entire time it's nursing on the sow." is too specific. It implies a one-to-one mapping of piglets to teats, which is incorrect.

Piglets usually suck from the same teat-pair, not the teat itself. If a sow turns over and a piglet does the typical thing and switches to the corresponding teat in the pair, it is sucking from a different nipple and your statement is incorrect.

There are other situations that make your statement invalid - e.g. a sow that weans more pigs than she has functional teats. Clearly if 2+ pigs suck from at least one nipple, there is no one-to-one mapping of piglets to teats, as implied by your statement.

I'm just trying to help you be more accurate.Teat order is a fascinating and complicated topic. Simple generalizations fail to describe it in all its complexity.

Anonymous said...

Pigs don't pick out their final tit with their first suck, and when that sow rolls over, they typically suck from a different litter. If a tit fails and there's a big pig on it, you can bet he's going to take over some other tit, by fighting off the smaller pigs. He's not just going to starve to death.

Bruce King said...

Look, if we're gonna split hairs, take a look at the book reference that was posted. On page 99 it says, and I quote "the teat order of the litter is established during the first week after birth and then rarely varies for the rest of the lactation (Fraser, 1975; harstock et al.,1977; jeppesen, 1982). "

The first reference (from thepigsite.com) says that teat order is established in the first day and fixed more than 90% of the time.

Guys, if we were building a rocket, I'd say that we need to go to three digits of precision. I'm telling you that both of these references agree with what I said: The piglet picks its teat and sticks with it for the rest of the nursing period. That picking is done pretty darned early. I believe it's done within the first hour after birth; your belief may be different. That doesn't make you wrong, or me right. None of our piglets will suffer; I think they'll figure it out for themselves.

The first reference even states that when the sow rolls over the piglet follows the specific teat. (item 7 on the list from thepigsite.com) That's what I've seen, and that's what I said.

Nice to see a bunch of people who know their pigs. No sarcasm there; I'm happy that people who know their stuff are reading.

Walter Jeffries said...

We get the opposite. Piglets switch teats during sessions, over life and they switch sows with sows that are co-nursing a cohort of piglets. There is no consistency of teat choice. We've observed this with easy to identify multi-colored piglets over hundreds of farrowings over many years on a pastured farrow to finish farm. Piglets switch teats.

See this post for more about teats.

Walter Jeffries said...

This video proves my point. Piglets switch teats.

Bruce King said...

If that were true, all of the teats on every sow would be used equally, and they are not. Some atrophy because they're not used at all.

Walter Jeffries said...

They are not just jostling. That video only shows a few seconds but I happened to have it and it definitely shows switching teats. You can believe what you want. The fact is I see something totally different on our farm and I've seen it across many hundreds of litters. This isn't book learning, it's years of experience.

Elsie Mobbs said...

If a human mother has enough babies she is likely to notice that one baby will prefer one nipple while the next baby may choose the nipple on the other side. Some human societies believe its the done thing to just feed on one breast. Lorenz recorded that his beaver needed his rubber dummy at sleep time. Its important to not only statistically record the frequency of latching but also the amount of time in exploratory, nutritive and non-nutritivesucking preceding sleep. Sure they might be seen in an exploratory behaviour but which one is used at sleep time? To the best of my information (and personal observation) kangaroos use the same body part for self sucking between feeds,if human reared, to the point of skin excoriation Elsie Mobbs