Weaning strategies to improve the performance of sows and their progeny under smallholder farming conditions
Kugonza, Donald R.
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The effect of restricted suckling and split weaning on the reproductive performance of dams and subsequent performance of their litters was studied in an experiment involving 48 Landrace x Large White sows of second and third parity. The sows and their litters were allocated to four treatments as follows: separation to allow either one or two 30 minute periods of suckling per day, reduction of litter size by weaning all piglets attaining 6 kg body weight and a control in which suckling was not restricted. Treatments commenced when piglets attained four weeks of age and were weaned at eight weeks of age. Restricted suckling resulted in an increased creep feed intake by the piglets. Piglets that were suckled once a day consumed 8.76 kg creep feed during the experimental period compared to 8.49, 8.35 and 8.21 kg for split weaning, twice a day suckling and the control, respectively. All intakes were significantly different. No differences were observed between treatments in total weight gain over the four week period. Sows in the control treatment had an average wean to oestrus interval (WOI) of 17 days. Restricting piglets to suckling once or twice a day, or split weaning had a positive effect of significantly reducing the WOI compared to the control. A number of sows exhibited oestrus during lactation, with the sows in the twice a day suckling treatment having a larger percentage than those in the other treatments. Restricting suckling and split weaning have an advantage of improving the reproductive performance of the sows without compromising piglet survival or growth. We recommend restricting piglet suckling to twice a day, and weaning of all piglets attaining six kg live weight.