The NPF way of weaning maximises piglet welfare

Sows raised in higher welfare environments are good mothers. They have strong maternal instincts, initiate regular and frequent suckling for their young, and take great care in their movements to avoid accidently crushing their young. The piglets also show a need for the maternal care of their mother and that they certainly benefit from longer exposure to her milk. In the wild weaning naturally starts at 3 weeks although the process is gradual and can take as long as 13-17 weeks for piglet to be fully weaned. All pig raisig operatios shorten the natural weaning cycle with 30-35 days now considered to be the optimunm timeframe for both sow and piglet welfare. 

Natural pig farming keeps piglets with mother a minimum of 5 weeks which is a longer time period than factory farm systems allow. Seperating the piglets from their mother later lowers risk of disease as:

  • Piglets get natural anti-bodies from mothers milk
  • Reduces stress which lowers immune system defences that taking piglets away from mother can cause
  • Ensures robust gastro-intestine development which reduces issues of diarrhoea, stomach upset and the weight retardation associated with these feed intake problems.
  • Maximises piglet growth rates
  • Switch to dry food too soon reduces piglet food intake for a period of time
  • Mothers milk high in essential nutrients and antibodies ensuing piglets don’t suffer illness
  • Mothers milk plus gradual introduction of dry / wet food ensures constant high food intake
  • Lowers feed cost (mothers milk is free)
  • Eliminates the abnormal behaviour known as belly nosing of fellow piglets which is a symptom of the piglets being removed from the sow too soon
  • Eliminates problems with tail biting and injuries to other piglets

 

We don’t feed special ‘creep’ food (this is piglet feed served in an area where the sow cannot reach). Our piglets naturally eat the feed served to the sow from the trough, and will start sampling this within the first couple of weeks. This early access to feed while still suckling the mother increases the production of amylase and protease enzymes necessary to digest food, and increases feed intake after weaning.

Natural pig farming maximises piglet welfare by:

  • Keeping piglets in the same familiar environment until they are separated from the sow
  • Keeping piglets in small family groups: we do not mix with other piglets
  • Ensures that the environment is
    • spacious
    • stimulating
    • hygienic: clean air, no flies
    • sympathetic to piglets natural needs

Once weaned, NPF keeps the piglets together as a family group

 

Once weaning is complete and the piglets are removed from the mother, the piglets are kept together as a family group. This allows the close companionship and natural hierarchy that has developed to stay in place, unlike factory farm operations where piglets are split up and mixed with other piglets of similar size, and then mixed again at various stages of their development. This is a recipe for fighting as each pig must try to establish its place in the new hierarchy. Not only does this lead to injuries from bites and higher stress levels amongst those piglets, but, also a reduction in growth when compared to unmixed groups. Our smaller group sizes also ensure the piglets grow up in the harmonious staple family environments larger group sizes can’t provide. 

Factory farms

Factory farming is in a rush to wean. Some factory farms routinely take the piglets away from their mothers at 2 weeks of age where they are mixed with other unfamiliar piglets and given antibiotic laced feed. Other factory farms separate within 15-21 days. They are put in large concrete or slatted pens that lack nothing to engage the lively, inquisitive minds of the young piglets.

Removing the piglets from their mother so quickly is not conducive to piglet welfare. When the piglets are removed from the sow the mixing unfamiliar piglets together is an unnecessary stress on the young piglets. They must fight for and establish a new place in the heirarchy and an element of fear from attack is introduced. The abrupt switch from suckling to powder feed is so early that it causes feeding problem and digestive disorders. All these practices result in the start in the downward spiral of a piglets welfare and a retardation of growth that fear, stress and unfamiliar food results in.

Natural pig farming v factory farming

Weaning

Natural pig farming

Factory farming

Recognizes that later weaning lowers risk of disease and maximizes piglet growth

Yes

No

Keeps piglets with sow for a minimum of 5 weeks

Yes

No

Minimizes piglet stress by keeping them with sow in the environment until weaned

Yes

No

Minimizes stress and fighting through keeping piglets in same family groups throughout life

Yes

No

Provides stimulating environment that supports natural exploratory and recreational behavior

Yes

No

 

 

 

 

The better way to raise pigs