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Age to wean piglets?

 
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My sow (meishanx kune kune) just gave birth to 14 piglets. Last time she had 10, and she got way too skinny despite getting lots of feed (piglets probably stole some of her food, too). I felt terrible and don’t want this to happen again. At what age can I responsibly start selling off piglets to get them off of her? I know some commercial operations wean at 3-4 weeks, but the rationale seems 100% economic and I’m not sure this is in the best interest of the piglets. I want a couple of piglets for myself, and I have a few of them pre sold, but I really want to make sure my girl doesn’t get overwhelmed this time. She gets as much quality clover hay as she can eat, fresh pasture, and I’m planning on buying a couple of fifty pound bags of feed every week for her (at least 16% protein, either hog feed of a dairy mix she loves). I just know she can’t keep up with 14 for long. I wasn’t expecting so many and I’m panicking a bit! I assume her diet is good since she did gain back the weight once I ate the piglets and has had a good pregnancy and 14 healthy piglets, but suggestions are welcome!
 
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Good Morning Anna;   I don't breed piggys, but I have been buying weaners every year for 15 years or more.  The youngest have been 5 weeks almost 6 week old. They do fine at that age.  My opinion is 3 weeks is greedy, 4 weeks is still to young to leave mom.
 
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We've weaned our piglets at 6 weeks, 8 weeks and 10 weeks with no apparent ill effects on the sow.... the sows very quickly teach the piglets when to stop suckling, our experience and observation is that they do not just let the piglets keep suckling (unlike some other mammals or when there is no alternative food for the offspring).  We are not long time experienced pig raisers but we've had 6 litters from our own boar / sows.... our piglets start eating / tasting the sow or boars feed about 4-5 days of age and the sow has often pushed them away... days later we run a line of feed away from the sows feed (on the ground) where the piglets eat and not interfere with the sow... when the piglets go in and run with the boar he lets them share his feed (sometimes LOL).... and by roughly 5 weeks old we put down a line of feed for the piglets well away from the sow or the boar.

We also put in a lot fresh feed (e.g. mangels, melons, squash, pumpkins, fruit of any variety, kale, rape, sugar beet, maize on the cob, jerusalem artichokes) into the pens/paddocks so that the piglets are not competing with the sow and reduce the piglets' dependence on the sow.

Best of luck!!!
 
Nick Truscott
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This picture illustrates what I mentioned in my earlier post... these piglets were 6 weeks old and already trained to their own feed.  We found this really eases the pressure on the sow. Our biggest lesson was the increased difficulty in "hand catching" older piglets, say more than 8 weeks, for selling LOL.  Our sows have never complained or attacked us when we have removed the little ones.
20170204_162523.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20170204_162523.jpg]
 
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I had been wondering that recently too.  It's so hard to find pig information online since nearly all of it is relative to industry hog growing!  Industry standard is 20-21 days.  There's a technique called "MEWing".  Medicated Early Weening.  Where they ween at 4 days old and bomb the piglets with antibiotics so their digestive tracts don't fail from the rapid food transition

We're juggling our first piglets right now.  It's super fun!  One mama has already weened her piglets at about 2 months old.  I think they would've been fine to pull off her 2 weeks ago.  The poor girl runs away from her babies and they chase her like a pack of wolves, screaming for milk!  She turns to fight them off and flips them away with her snout.  Piggies go FLYING!  It's comical and I don't envy her.  They've got sharp tusks and they like to bite soft fleshy things with them D:
Our other sow is taking her time weening, but her babies aren't being cruel to her.  

I agree that, from my limited experience so far, 4 weeks could be "absolute earliest" if really needed, but 6 weeks is a good time.  By 8 weeks they're definitely good.  

I read somewhere on a university extension .PDF that sow lactation peaks at 21 days, and by 58 days she's dry, with 35-45 days being the main 'weening' window.  That information was helpful to me.  I'll see if I can find the .PDF.
 
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Nick Truscott wrote:We've weaned our piglets at 6 weeks, 8 weeks and 10 weeks with no apparent ill effects on the sow.... the sows very quickly teach the piglets when to stop suckling, our experience and observation is that they do not just let the piglets keep suckling (unlike some other mammals or when there is no alternative food for the offspring).  We are not long time experienced pig raisers but we've had 6 litters from our own boar / sows.... our piglets start eating / tasting the sow or boars feed about 4-5 days of age and the sow has often pushed them away... days later we run a line of feed away from the sows feed (on the ground) where the piglets eat and not interfere with the sow... when the piglets go in and run with the boar he lets them share his feed (sometimes LOL).... and by roughly 5 weeks old we put down a line of feed for the piglets well away from the sow or the boar.

We also put in a lot fresh feed (e.g. mangels, melons, squash, pumpkins, fruit of any variety, kale, rape, sugar beet, maize on the cob, jerusalem artichokes) into the pens/paddocks so that the piglets are not competing with the sow and reduce the piglets' dependence on the sow.

Best of luck!!!



I have NOT found this to be true. I have a 3 month old piglet still suckling. I separated it from Mom and she broke the gate down and is still feeding it. I keep asking my husband, is she going to wean it? He keeps saying she must but....so far she's still feeding her lone piglet. Though not constantly. The piglet squeezes under the gate and runs free with our boar all day but at night, suckles.
 
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