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Pigs

Every breeder of piglets has to cope with more or less high rates of piglet losses. Losses amounting to 16 to 18 percent are not seldom. Approximately 80 percent of the losses among suckling piglets occur within the first weeks, almost one-third of which within the first three days. Diarrheas are not seldom the cause. Who is able to wean a few more piglets may consider himself a winner!

Newborn piglets naturally dispose of only little energy reserves (glycogen, fat). They need energy-rich nutrition as soon as possible after changing from the uterine milieu over into the “cold exterior world”. An increasing number of live-born piglets within the last years, combined with a frequent occurrence of only insufficient quantities of milk (partially also caused by the MMA complex), resulted in not all piglets being sufficiently supplied with sow’s milk. A deficiency of energy causes hypoglycemia, resulting in a disturbance of the suckling and feed-uptake behavior, hence in a generalized condition of weakness and perhaps in death. Neither is the supply of vitamins guaranteed in any way. They are required all the more particularly in situations of stress (reallocation to other pens, change of feed, transport, vaccination, disease, climate variations). Vitamin deficiency causes a deteriorated constitution of the animals and hence poor growth, which will later become evident as a low feed conversion efficiency as well as poor breeding/rearing successes / reproduction rates.

Why are piglets so susceptible to pathogens causing diarrhea?
Piglets are born without an immunity of their own since, due to the variant morphology of their placenta, antibodies cannot be transferred to fetus in the womb, as is the case in humans. They therefore depend on being supplied with immunoglobulins from the colostrum as soon as possible. However, this “passive immunization” only helps for a short while because, firstly, the antibody concentration in the colostrum declines within a few hours and, secondly, the permeability of the intestinal wall also decreases. The piglet must now build up its own – active – immunity subsequent to being challenged with the prevailing pathogens. Among others, these pathogens are:



But as the passive immunity from the colostrum declines faster than active immunity will establish, the initial immunity gap shortly after birth (prior to the uptake of colostrum) is followed by a second one in about 4-6 weeks, once passive protection no longer exists and active protection is yet outstanding.
These two gaps occur even in case of “normal” development. The piglet will encounter even worse starting conditions if the colostrum quantity is too small or provided at a too late event (difficulties during parturition, MMA complex, faulty management), or if the antibody content of the colostrum is too low (too short adaptation period for sows recently purchased). If stress due to reallocating the animals to other pens or a change of feed add to the situation, the pathogens will find ideal conditions for infection.