Loss Of Spring Litters

We are approaching the season when one of the chief topics of conversation among farmers will be the heavy annual loss of spring farrowed pigs. When hog prices are at profitable levels, as they have been during the past year, this loss becomes a serious matter for the breeders. The fact that some swine growers never lose a spring litter while some others never save one, is evidence that this loss is largely preventable.

In a small percentage of the cases failure may be  attributed to conditions over which the breeder has little control, but such causes are rare when compared with the numerous fatalities due to improper feeding methods.

Pretty Norma Dewar admires a Yorkshire piglet

The great lack of knowledge of the elementary principles of livestock feeding is the chief problem effecting [sic] the swine industry in P. E. Island today. Every farmer knows what constitutes a balanced fertiliser,. but very few understand what goes to make up a balanced ration. Every  farmer should know that a balanced ration must contain everything that the sow required to develop a litter of strong, vigorous pigs. It must contain sufficient minerals to build up the skeleton of the pigs. If these minerals are lacking, the litter may be born dead, deformed, or so lacking strength that they die immediately after birth. If they live for a time, rickets may be the results. A balanced ration must contain protein to build up muscle and blood in the unborn pigs. Any deficiency in this respect may result in oversized, flabby, weak pigs at farrowing time. In this province protein is usually the low constituent in our live stock ration. Skim milk or buttermilk are they only high protein feeds grown on our farms and used for pigs. All other common pig feeds are low in protein; potatoes and roots have only 1 per cent protein, oast, wheat and barley average about 9 to 10 per cent. In a balanced ration for sow carrying young or nursing a litter the ration should contain 15 to 20 percent protein. How can we make up such a ration if we use potatoes roots [sic]  and home grown grains without milk? Take potatoes and grain in equal parts and we have a ration with about 6 per cent protein or less. This is wide efficiency from the necessary minimum of 15 per cent. Yet we find hundreds of farmers feeding such an unbalanced ration. When disaster follows they call it bad luck.

The question naturally arises: what can be used to balance a hog ration if the farmer is short of milk? A number of high protein feeds may be recommended, such as fishmeal 60 to 70 percent protein; blood meal,  60 to 70 percent protein; blood and bone meal 50 to 60  per cent protein; tankage 40 to 60 percent protein, and perhaps oil cake, 35 to 40 percent protein. The last named should be used only when the others are not obtainable. If no milk is available and potatoes, roots and home grown grains are the bulk of the ration, at least one pound of any 60 per cent protein feed should be mixed with every nine pounds of grain, and three pounds with every bushel of potatoes or roots. Such a ration will be suitable for bred sow, sow nursing, and for growing pigs. Immediately before and after farrowing this ration should be adjusted as follows:

Col. F. I. Andrew (left) tattoos herd identification on ear of month old pig in 1958

About ten days before the date of farrowing begin to change the sow’s ration by replacing all other grain feeds with bran. About five days before farrowing the sow should be on a straight bran ration fed in slop form. From this time the ration should be gradually decreased until the sow is on half  rations the day before she furrows.  If the sow shows evidence of farrowing within 24 hours, she should  get nothing but plenty of warm water with a light sprinkling of bran. This warm drink should be  continued until the pigs are 24 hours old, when the bran ration should  be gradually increased to  bring the sow back to full feed on bran alone about five days after farrowing. Then the bran can be gradually replaced by stronger grain feeds if the sow has passed through the farrowing period in a normal condition. 

The main purpose of this system is to have the sow in a laxative condition and have her farrow on a stomach free from all strong, heat producing feeds. A full stomach, constipation and fever are the series of conditions which result in the loss of litters and quiet often dead sows.

It is false economy to feed any pig on an unbalanced ration even if the farmer must spend a few dollars for protein feeds. The price of one sucker pig will buy enough fishmeal, blood meal or tankage  to balance the sow’s ration during the greater part of the gestation period. This principle holds true in feedings pigs [sic] between weaning and  market age. Many cases of unthriftiness, lack of appetite, crippling, even death. may be traced to rations which are too low in protein and minerals. Indigestion is a very common result of low protein rations. Even if the pigs show no serious results from such improper feeding, the grower is wasting feed. Pigs fed unbalanced rations will usually take weeks. and in many cases, months longer to reach top market weights, whereas the addition of  afew pounds of high protein feed would save both time and feed.

With a little foresight this coming spring the usual loss of litters can be avoided. 

– Loss Of Spring Litters, The Charlottetown Guardian, February 27th, 1936.

Source: islandnewspapers.ca