Behavioral, physiological and environmental factors in baby pig mortality
Mortality in neonatal pigs has been estimated to be near 20%. Many attempts have been made to reduce this economically important aspect of swine production. However, even with modern operations and high quality feeding regimes, the death rate of piglets within the first week of life has changed little in the last 20 years. An understanding of the behavior and biology of piglets and sows has not been utilized to reduce early mortality. Neonatal animals such as the piglet show rapidly changing physical, physiological and behavioral characteristics during the first few days of life. If these neonates are to survive, they must continually adapt to varying social and environmental conditions. Sensory systems have long been recognized as playing a mayor role in the neural processes involved in recognition by the piglet of mother and litermates. Chemical cues such as matenal feces, amniotic fluid and ventral skin substances have been demonstrated to be important sources in nipple attachment and early suckling behavior over the course of lactation in several species.