Intermittent suckling

Last changed: 06 December 2023
Piglets in straw bedding

To decrease piglet mortality and increase piglet growth

Project responsible: Ann-Sofi Bergqvist, Department of Clinical Sciences, SLU Uppsala. 
Project group: Ylva Sjunnesson, Department of Clinical Sciences, SLU Uppsala. Lena Eliasson-Selling Farm & Animal health.

Abrupt weaning is practiced in all piglet farms. Although, weaning is a gradual process in pigs in the wild. Intermittent Suckling, (IS) means that the sows are kept away from their piglets several hours daily during the last week before weaning. Research shows that IS leads to less stress at weaning, better and evener growth of piglets, because they are starting to eat solid feed earlier and get successive adaptation to feed. Intermittent suckling also leads to less weaning diarrhea, fewer sick piglets and lower piglet mortality.

It is common for sows to lose weightduring lactation.This weight loss could cause illness and decreased fertility. The weight loss is more severe among younger sows and in organic farms where lactation is longer than in conventional production. Intermittent suckling can prevent severe weight loss in sows during lactation.

Research shows that IS is working better with longer lactation. Therefore IS would probably work better in Swedish organic production, than in conventional farms with shorter lactation. We will explore the possibilities to adapt IS to Swedish organic farms.
Our hypothesis are:

  • intermittent suckling will improved piglet survival and vitality,
  • give more homogeneous piglet size,
  • reduced need for antibiotics and zinc additives and
  • improved piglet growth including better health and welfare in sows and piglets.

Intermittent suckling will increase the productivity and competitiveness for Swedish organic piglet producers.

The project starts 2021


High piglet mortality is a major animal welfare problem in Sweden. In organic farms piglet mortality is higher than in conventional. An important cause of piglet mortality is post-weaning diarrhea that results from the sudden change of diet.

Within organic piglet production there is also a problem with large variation in piglet weights within litters and between litters of the same age. If the piglets in a litter are not of the same size, they cannot be moved at the same time. Pigs of different ages and different immune status will be mixed infections will spread easily among the pigs.