A field trial on the effect of cross-fostering on performance, clinical health and antibiotic usage during the suckling period of pigs

Cecilie Liv Nielsen*, Mogens Agerbo Krogh, Jan Tind Sørensen, Hanne Kongsted

*Corresponding author af dette arbejde

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Cross-fostering is a common nursing strategy in pig production, but there is sparse evidence on its effect on antibiotic usage and disease occurrence in piglets. The objective of this study was to compare the effect of two nursing strategies on antibiotic usage, disease occurrence, weight gain and mortality in piglets. A 2×2 randomized factorial experiment was conducted in three Danish commercial pig production herds. The factors were nursing strategy (cross-fostering allowed (CF) vs. cross-fostering not allowed after initial litter equalisation (nonCF)) and weaning age (four vs. five weeks). In CF litters, the herd’s usual cross-fostering strategy was applied. Piglets were followed individually from birth until weaning. Data was collected on antibiotic usage, mortality, weight gain and clinical disease. Only individual antibiotic treatments were allowed. At litter level, the effect of nursing strategy (CF vs. non-CF) on average daily gain, mortality, antibiotic treatment, clinical disease, face wounds and carpal wounds was analysed. In total, 241 litters were used for the data analysis. Approximately 30% of the CF litters were cross-fostered (either given a nurse sow, mingled with non-siblings or both) during the nursing period. The odds for antibiotic treatment during the suckling period were 1.58 times higher for CF litters compared to non-CF litters (P < 0.001). Across experimental groups, 60.8% of antibiotic treatments were administered for leg diseases. In CF litters, 15.7–21.3% of the antibiotic treatments were directed against diarrhoea, whereas in non-CF litters this was the case for less than 1%. In CF litters, the odds for carpal wounds were 1.40 times higher than in non-CF litters (P = 0.005). There was a tendency towards a higher occurrence of face wounds (OR = 1.30, P = 0.095) and clinical disease (OR = 1.25, P = 0.059) at weaning in CF litters compared to non-CF litters. There was no difference in average daily gain and mortality from birth to weaning between CF and non-CF litters. The results show that cross-fostering increases antibiotic usage in piglets during the nursing period and tends to affect the clinical health at weaning negatively.
TidsskriftPreventive Veterinary Medicine
Antal sider8
StatusUdgivet - aug. 2022