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Pork production: On piglets and hygiene

Question: How important is hygiene for piglet health?

Good hygiene is extremely important in pork production. Many piglets die in the first week of life because of germs they get from their mother.

There are certainly some simple things you can do to protect piglets. Most of the infections they get from their mothers occur because of contact with the mother’s dung, which dirties the farrowing area and also the udder.

Removing the droppings regularly is important, especially on the day the piglets are expected to be born; the birthing area should be thoroughly cleaned and dried.

If the sow is in a farrowing crate, the area where her dung falls and the area where the piglets will be born are the same, so it is particularly important to make sure that all dung is removed and the area is cleaned before the piglets are born.

If the sow is in a pen, she may select another area to give birth, but even so the dung should be removed as piglets can move around quite a lot, even on the first day of life.


  • On the day before farrowing, the sow’s hindquarters and udder should be washed thoroughly to remove any dung.
  • After the birth of the piglets, when the umbilical cord has naturally separated from the mother (it must never be cut or broken), disinfect the navel and the feet with iodine.
  • Doing this gives additional protection as it prevents germs entering the piglet via the navel before it has healed, and via the feet before they have hardened.
  • Make sure the piglets drink from the sow within the first few hours of birth. This will ensure that they get the first milk, or colostrum, from the mother.
  • This helps protect them from germs, especially those present in the mother, because it transfers her immunity to the piglets.
  • Piglets that are warm and dry are far less likely to get sick than cold piglets, so make sure there is a warm creep area with deep bedding where they can rest in between feeds.

Also read:
How do I get started in pig farming?
Pork production: Protecting your pigs from sunburn
Pork production: Do pigs become infertile in summer?

  • This article was written by Dr. Mary-Louise Penrith and first appeared in Farming SA.

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