Have you heard about Split Suckling?

With the ongoing developments in swine genetics, the number of live-born piglets per litter is increasing annually. In addition, the introduction of high-productive sows has led to larger litter sizes but also more piglets being born with lower birth weights. A good start in life makes all the difference for the growth and development of all piglets. But how do you raise all these piglets with the sow?

Sufficient intake of colostrum by the piglets plays an important role in this. One practical way to provide piglets with sufficient colostrum is the use of split suckling on the pig farm. But why is colostrum so important and how do you apply split suckling?

Split Suckling and why you should do this



Colostrum is the first milk produced by the sow and is only available during the first 24 hours after parturition. Intake of sufficient colostrum by all piglets during these first 24 hours after birth is of vital importance for the piglets. Sufficient intake of colostrum ensures that the piglets receive energy, and it also ensures that the sow’s antibodies reach the piglet to establish a good immune system. Mortality in the first days after birth is often related to insufficient colostrum uptake. Therefore, proper colostrum management in the farrowing room is of vital importance. With the number of live-born piglets per litter only increasing this creates an even greater challenge for a pig farmer every day to raise all piglets healthy.


When more piglets are born than there are functioning teats at the sow, a problem arises with the colostrum supply. The sow then does not have enough teats to provide all piglets with colostrum. Additional measures are required to ensure that all piglets receive sufficient colostrum. Split suckling is a beneficial management strategy to do so.

Colostrum intake and growth

In addition to the fact that colostrum plays a major role in the supply of antibodies to the piglet to establish a good immune system, research has shown that there is a positive relationship between colostrum intake and piglet weights at weaning . Piglets that have consumed more than 350 grams of colostrum during the first 24 hours after birth also have significantly higher weaning weights.

Correlation between colostrum intake and growth (source: Hasan et al., 2018 and COLPIMO project, University of Helsinki, Finland).

Correlation between colostrum intake and growth (source: Hasan et al., 2018 and COLPIMO project, University of Helsinki, Finland).

Split suckling

What is Split Suckling?

If the sow does not have sufficiently functional teats or to make sure that all piglets receive a sufficient amount of colostrum intake, you can use split suckling as a colostrum management strategy. With split suckling, the litter gets split into two groups. Separate the heavier first-born piglets with a filled tummy from the litter for 1-1,5 hours to help the lighter and also later-born piglets with the opportunity to drink colostrum from the sow. After this short separation place the piglets together again with the sow.

Step-by-step plan for split suckling

To make sure that split suckling becomes a success on a pig farm, attention, and a step-by-step plan to ensure that split suckling is applied effectively are important. To properly master this way of working, it is important that you complete all the steps and that all employees involved control the same actions.

Step-by-step plan:

  • Start Split suckling when more piglets are born then there are available functional teats at the sow.
  • Check whether the sow is healthy and has good milk production.
  • Separate stronger (firstborn) piglets, that already ingested colostrum (3 to 4 piglets) from the litter by using a partition or in a crate for 2 – 2,5 hours. After these 2 – 2,5 hours, mark these piglets with a color marker and place the piglets with the sow again.
  • Separate now again another 3 to 4 stronger piglets and use the same strategy. After 2 – 2,5 hours, mark them with another color (then the first group) and change the piglets with the piglets from the first group.
  • Repeat this till the end of the working day.
  • Return all piglets to the sow during the evening round.
  • The next day (when all sows have given birth), uniform the litters and when needed you can use a management tool (f.e. foster sows).

Start feeding a piglet milk replacer

After the first 24 hours, in which colostrum intake is very important, supplementary feeding of Porcolac piglet milk products can then be started to support the sow and improve piglet milk performance. Find here more information about supplementary feeding of piglet milk

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