Swine programme PigletStart

Newborn piglets depend on good quality colostrum for the first antibodies. They are born without immunity and thus are unprotected. This makes a newborn piglet susceptible to, for example, the E. Coli bacteria.

Colostrum quality

A good start for newborn piglets therefore starts with sufficient colostrum of sufficient quality. The sow does not pass on any antibodies (immunoglobulins) via the placenta, with the result that a piglet is very vulnerable during the first days of life. The piglet’s immunity develops in the first weeks, but maternal immunity via the colostrum is the first protection and therefore of vital importance!

The first-born piglets ingest the most colostrum with the highest levels of antibodies. These piglets therefore have an advantage over the youngest piglets. Due to the size of the litters, there is a higher degree of competition between the piglets, often to the detriment of the smaller piglets with a lower birth weight. There is a correlation between low birth weight piglets, colostrum intake and mortality (Devillers et al., 2011).


Maternity diarrhea is a condition that unfortunately still occurs regularly and causes a high dropout rate. Almost half of the loss occurs in the first three days after birth (Tuchscherer et al., 2000). There can be several causes that cause failure; stable temperatures that are too low, hygiene or insufficient provision of colostrum. Colostrum can also be of too low quality: gilts often have not yet built up antibodies against all common germs, so that the quality of the colostrum is lower than that of an older sow.


Optimal hygiene in the farrowing pen is important to get the piglets off to a good start. By means of optimal cleaning you ensure a lower infection pressure and you prevent bacteria from the previous round from remaining behind and posing a risk of infection for the next round of piglets.