In organic pig farming the weaning of the piglets from the sow takes as a rule place after 40 to 42 days. At this time, however, the piglets are in a critical physiological stage. They are more prone to disease and frequently get the so-called post-weaning diarrhoea, which has to be treated with the use of antibiotics. The project “extended suckling period” aims at demonstrating the positive effects and the practicality of an extension of the suckling period to at least 49 days and at making available guidance documents. The concept of an extended suckling period demonstrates an approach to a solution how the problems around the weaning of the piglets can be reduced and the welfare of the piglets can be improved.
Point of departure
Even though the extended suckling period (63 days instead of 40-42 days) has been scientifically examined and a significant superiority of piglets which were suckled over a longer period in terms of live weight development and treatment incidences has been confirmed, there are several obstacles to actually implement it in practice. Due to the longer occupancy of the farrowing pens the subsequent sow can only be rehoused at a later time which means that individual planning of the farm including a spatial concept is needed. Moreover, it is genetically determined that not each sow is necessarily suitable for an extended suckling period. Last but not least an economic assessment of the extended suckling period as supporting information for the farmers is missing. Within the framework of this project the concept of an extended suckling period on fattening pig farms aiming at an improvement of the welfare and of the health of the animals and at a reduction of the farm risk due to the treatment of the animals is implemented. The experiences made and the effects reached in this context are published in various forms and support farmers in the course of the conversion to an extended suckling period.
Targets and target groups
The project supports the establishment of the extended suckling period in Austrian organic pig keeping. Main target group are organic pig farms. However, results could also be interesting for conventional pig farmers.
Project implementation and measures
Important steps of the project are (1) farm visits and identification of the status quo, (2) the preparation of farm folders on the implementation of an extended suckling period, (3) the implementation of the extended suckling period in farms in practice and concurrent data collection, and (4) the evaluation and discussion of the results and the publication of guidance documents for farmers.
Results and effects
Positive effects are to be expected immediately with respect to the welfare and the health of the piglets. Moreover, by means of avoiding the well-known performance degradation when weaning after 40 to 42 days a higher increase in the weight of the piglets can be achieved, which has, in turn, a positive effect on the economic efficiency of the farms.