MANAGEMENT                                        PIH-114


                        Processing Baby Pigs

Vernon B. Mayrose, Purdue University
Alex Hogg, University of Nebraska
Lois and Jim Phillips, Drexel, Missouri

Diane and Reg Cridler, Rockford, Michigan
Deborah and Fred Gay, Reeseville, Wisconsin
Duane Miksch, University of Kentucky

     Baby pig management should start before  the  pig  is  born.
Provide  a clean, dry, warm farrowing facility that is draft free
and properly ventilated. After the pigs  are  born,  it  is  very
important  that  they  nurse  the sow to obtain the antibody rich
colostrum milk for combating disease.  The  new  litter  of  pigs
should  be  processed within 24 hours after birth. Processing may
include the following: weighing, navel cord care, clipping needle
teeth,  tail docking, iron injections, ear notching, and castrat-
ing. These skills can be performed in different ways, and in  the
sequence  of  personal preference. Some producers prefer to delay
some of these procedures for 3 or 4 days to reduce stress on  the
very  fragile  one-day-old piglet. Those recording mortality from
birth to weaning in excess of 8 to 10% should  consider  delaying
some of these procedures.

     The supplies and equipment needed for these practices are  a
disinfectant,  such  as  chlorhexidine (NolvasanO); an antiseptic
such as a tincture of iodine (USP-2% solution); side  cutters  or
equivalent for clipping the navel cord, needle teeth and tail; an
injectable iron solution; a syringe with assorted  needles;  cord
for  tying  off navels; an ear-notching tool and castration knife
or scalpel. Use a shallow container for disinfectant in which  to
put the cutting edge of instruments between uses (Figure 1).

     The working area should be clean and well lighted. All  sup-
plies and equipment should be placed for easy access. Work on one
pig at a time, completing the processing for  an  individual  pig
before starting on another one.

     These practices should be performed  away  from  the  mother
sow,  preferably  in another room, since squealing pigs may upset
her and other sows in the farrowing house. The pigs may be  tran-
sported  to the working area in a box or cart preferably with two
compartments. In some operations it might be  more  practical  to
perform  these  skills  at or near the farrowing crate or pen. Be
careful when removing the pigs from the farrowing crate,  because
the sow might bite to protect her litter.


     Many pork  producers  use  production  records  to  identify
strengths  and  weaknesses  in  the operation. This recordkeeping
process usually starts at  birth  when  identification  (see  ear
notching)  is  done  for  the purpose of tying information to the
pigs. Items that can be recorded when processing  baby  pigs  are
birth date, pedigree information, name or number and breed of the
sire and dam or breed composition of  the  pigs,  which  is  very
important in implementing an effective crossbreeding program. See
PIH-39, Crossbreeding Systems  for  Commercial  Pork  Production.
Remarks  on  anything unusual or wrong with the pig or dam should
be noted. If the pigs are to be individually ear-notched,  record
all the identification numbers to be used on the litter.

Pork producers who use birth weights as part of their  management
system  can incorporate the weighing into the pig processing rou-
tine. Most pigs are not weighed at birth, but if  they  are  this
should  be  done  first,  followed by the rest of the processing.
Weigh each pig and record the sex  and  weight.  A  total  litter
weight is often sufficient information (Figure 2).

Restraining the Pig for Processing

     One of the very successful and efficient methods of  holding
and  restraining  the  pig is as follows (This method assumes you
are right-handed):  Place your left thumb (Figure  3a)  into  the
crease  behind  the pig's right ear about midway from top to bot-
tom. Maneuver your left index finger  across  the  front  of  the
pig's  face  and  into  the corner of the left side of its mouth,
behind the needle teeth. Your  left  thumb  will  end  up  either
behind  the  pig's  ears  or  in front of them depending upon the
length of your fingers. Beware not to choke the pig  by  pressing
the  remainder  of  your fingers into its throat. Use the fingers
under the jaw to support some of the pig's weight. Dangle the pig
in  front  of  you  and it will struggle less than if you pull it
against you. You can also sit and  support  its  weight  on  your
knees, if necessary.

     With the pig in this position, it usually does not  struggle
or  squeal,  and you can cut the teeth, cut the tail, inject into
the muscle of the neck, and dip the tail and navel, in very rapid
succession without changing the hold on the pig.

Navel Cord Care

     During pregnancy the fetus obtains nutrients and voids urine
through  the  umbilical (navel) cord. When this cord is broken as
the pig leaves the birth canal, the passageway  within  the  cord
provides a potential passageway for bacteria into the body of the
newborn, and sometimes infection results. To help  in  preventing
infection,  the  navel  can  be treated with a tincture of iodine
(USP-2% solution).

     Sometimes newborn pigs bleed excessively  immediately  after
the umbilical cord breaks, especially if it breaks shorter than 4
to 5 inches. The loss of blood will cause the pig to get  a  poor
start  and  possibly  die. If bleeding does occur from the navel,
tie off immediately with string using a square or surgeon's  knot
(Figure  4).  The  cause of the excess bleeding could be due to a
failure in the blood clotting mechanism.

     With disinfected side cutters, cut off the  navel  cord.  If
the  navel has been tied, you can leave about 1 inch (Figure 3b).
Leave 3 or 4 inches if the navel has not  been  tied;  check  for
bleeding  if navel is fresh. Apply iodine antiseptic by swabbing,
spraying or dipping (Figure 3c). The dip method requires  placing
the  navel  inside the antiseptic bottle and shaking gently.  Any
of these methods is satisfactory, but be sure to get good  cover-
age  of the navel. Use disinfected sidecutters and a fresh iodine
solution, since iodine solutions break down in  the  presence  of
organic  matter.  A  contaminated  iodine solution might actually
cause an infection. If the cord is dry and shriveled, it may  not
be  necessary to treat. Just cut it off, leaving about an inch of

Clipping Needle Teeth

     The newborn pig has eight needle teeth,  sometimes  referred
to  as  wolf  teeth which should be clipped within 24 hours after
birth. They are located on the sides of the upper and lower jaws.
Clipping  these  teeth  is  necessary  because pigs may bite each
other and the sow's udder, leaving small cuts to become infected.
The  irritation  may  be  so  severe that the sow might refuse to
nurse the pigs.

     Place the sterilized  sidecutters  over  both  lower  needle
teeth  on  one side with the flat side to the gum line (Figure 3d
and 3e). Make sure the sidecutters are parallel to the  gum,  and
cut  off  one-half of the two lower teeth at once. Turn the side-
cutters and cut the two upper teeth. Do the  same  to  the  other
side.  Be  careful  not  to  cut the pig's gum or tongue. Cutting
teeth too short may cause an abscess on the jaw that is sometimes
called ``bull nose.''

Tail Docking

     Recommended floor space in modern  pork  production  systems
provides  for  adequate  pig comfort. However, space is more res-
tricted than in outside lots, and pigs will sometimes try to bite
or chew on their penmates. The undocked tail is a very convenient
target, and sometimes results in tail biting or cannibalism. This
leads  to  injury and possibly infection. To prevent tail biting,
tails are docked (or cut off) newborn pigs. Tail docking  usually
is  required  at feeder pig markets.  Tail docking should be done
within 24 hours after birth because it is least stressful on  the
pig for these reasons: the pig is small and easy to hold; at this
age littermates are less likely to investigate and nip or bite  a
newly  docked  tail;  the pig and farrowing area are still clean;
and the pig is well protected with antibodies from the  colostrum
milk of the sow.  Use sterilized sidecutters or equivalent with a
blunt cutting edge to dock the tail about 1 inch from  the  place
where  the  tail  joins  the body of the pig.  Leave no more than
one-half  to  three-quarters  of  the  tail  (Figure  3f).  Apply
antiseptic  to  the  wound.  The tail should be completely healed
within 7 to 10 days. Do not use a very sharp instrument, such  as
a  scalpel,  because excess bleeding will occur. Cutting the tail
too short could interfere with the  muscle  activity  around  the
anus  later  in the pig's life and could be an aggravating factor
in anal prolapse. If too much tail is  left,  tail  biting  might
still  occur.   Occasionally,  a  tail will bleed excessively. If
this occurs, tie it off using the same method as for navel cords.

Iron Injection

     Iron injection is necessary to prevent anemia.  See  PIH-34,
Baby Pig Anemia. Iron-deficiency anemia develops rapidly in nurs-
ing pigs because of low iron in the newborn pig, the low iron  of
sow's  colostrum  and  milk, the lack of contact with iron in the
soil, and the rapid growth rate of  the  nursing  pig.   With  no
access  to soil, iron deficiency anemia may result within 7 to 10
days after birth. Oral iron often prevents anemia but might  fail
for pigs with diarrhea or those not consuming creep feed.

     Iron should be administered to the pig within 3  to  4  days
after  birth.   The  iron  injection is often administered at the
same time the other practices are performed, to  save  labor.  If
pigs  are  to  be weaned by 3 weeks of age, a single injection of
100 mg. of iron will suffice. If pigs are to be weaned later than
3 weeks of age, then 150 to 200 mg. of iron should be injected. A
single injection is usually adequate. If sows are  heavy  milkers
with  rapidly  growing  pigs  that  do  not consume creep feed, a
second iron injection may be necessary before weaning.   Using  a
clean  syringe,  withdraw  the  iron solution from its container,
using a 14 or 16 gauge (large  diameter)  needle  which  is  left
inserted  in  the  container. After filling the syringe, use a 20
gauge, 1/2inch needle to inject the iron into the  pig's  muscle.
Do  not  overdose,  as  too much iron can be detrimental and even
toxic. Check the label on the iron product for dosage.  Injection
needles need not be changed or disinfected between pigs; but, the
injection site, if dirty, should be wiped clean with an  antisep-
tic.  Clean and disinfect instruments after processing a group of
baby pigs. The use of disposable syringes and needles facilitates

     Iron should not be injected  into  the  ham.  The  injection
should be given in the neck (Figure 3g) because of possible nerve
damage and, also, because of a residual iron stain in the carcass
of  market  hogs if it is given in the ham.  Inject the iron into
the neck muscle just off the midline. Be careful  not  to  inject
into  the  spinal  area. Keep a finger on the site momentarily to
help prevent or reduce runback. Recommended site for subcutaneous
injections is the loose flank skin in front of the hind legs.

Ear Notching

     Ear notching is the most common  method  for  permanent  pig
identification (See the section on records). The notches or holes
grow as the pig grows.  Ear notching should be  done  soon  after
birth  for immediate identification.  Each pig must have a unique
ear notch in many seedstock herds because it is a requirement for
pedigree  and  performance records. It is not necessary that each
pig have an individual number in operations where all hogs except
replacement gilts are marketed for slaughter. Each litter, or all
pigs in a farrowing group, or only gilts  to  be  considered  for
replacements,  might  be  ear-notched at birth with the same pat-
tern. Market hogs might be notched with the week they were  born,
starting  with  week-one  on  January 1 and July 1. This makes it
possible to calculate days to market weight.

Ear Notching Systems

     The most common individual pig and litter earmarking  system
is  shown  in Figure 5a. It is the identification system required
by the purebred swine associations in the U.S. The litter  number
is  notched  in the pig's right ear and the individual pig number
in the pig's left ear. Figure 5b shows another system that  might
be useful for some operations.

     Count the pigs and record (if applicable)  the  pig  numbers
for this litter on the farrowing record form. Use a V-ear notcher
(Figure 6) designed for newborn pigs. Notch all males first, then
females, or vice versa. Notches that are too shallow may fill in,
heal over, and be difficult to read. A notch that is too deep may
result in a torn ear. Leave at least 1/4 inch between notches. Do
not make notches too close to the tip of the ear, as these can be
torn  off.  When  you have notches on both, top and bottom of the
ear near the tip, position them so that the deep  points  of  the
notches are offset from each other. When making a notch on top of
the ear close to the head, uncurl the ear with  your  fingers  so
you  can  make it deep into the cartilage. Otherwise, it might be
unreadable after it heals.

     Usually, the litter number is notched first in one  ear  and
then  the pig number in the other. It is a good idea to keep your
attention on what you are doing because, once a mistake is  made,
it is permanent!


     Castration, the surgical removal of the two testicles, is  a
routine management practice for male pigs destined for slaughter.
The testicles produce sperm and the male  hormone,  testosterone.
Pork  from  boars,  or uncastrated male pigs at slaughter weight,
may have an odor during cooking that is very  offensive  to  many
people. This is called a ``boar odor'' or a ``tainted'' odor.

     Various techniques are used for castration. The position  of
the  animal  during  surgery  and  the method and degree of rest-
raint are dictated by the age and size of the  animal.  The  best
time  to  castrate  a  pig is between 1 and 21 days of age. Young
pigs are easier to hold or restrain. They bleed less from surgery
and  may  have antibody protection from the sow's colostrum. Pigs
can be successfully castrated on day one. One of the major disad-
vantages  of  castrating  early  is that scrotal hernias are more
difficult to detect. Most scrotal hernias are genetic in  origin.
Do  not  keep  for  breeding,  boars and gilts from any litter in
which one or more pigs was herniated.

     For pigs several weeks old, one person holds the pig by  the
rear  legs while the other person does the castrating (Figure 7).
For younger pigs, it is possible for one person to hold  the  pig
with  one  hand  (Figure 8), or between the knees and also do the
castration. A mechanical pig holder can be used.

     Once the pig is restrained, clean the scrotum and  surround-
ing  area  with  a  cotton  swab soaked in a mild disinfectant. A
disinfected, sharp, castration  knife,  scalpel,  or  razor-blade
type  instrument  can  be used to make the incision.  Examine the
testicles before making the incision to determine  if  there  are
two  of similar size. If there is a scrotal enlargement, it could
indicate a scrotal hernia or rupture. Do  not  castrate  the  pig
unless  you  are  trained to repair hernias. The pig's intestines
will be forced through the incision.  Sometimes the  testicle  is
removed  before  a  scrotal hernia is discovered. If this happens
the herniation must be repaired by suturing immediately.

     If one or both testicles are not found, the  pig  may  be  a
cryptorchid,  meaning  that  the  testicle(s)  failed  to descend
through the inguinal canal from the abdomen  during  development.
When  this  condition  is  noticed,  ear notch the pig and make a
record of it. Often, the testicle(s) will  descend  to  a  normal
position  as  the  pig  grows. The pig should be castrated later,
after the testicle presents itself.

     With one hand, tighten the skin over  the  scrotum  to  help
expose  the testicle and the site for the incision. With the cas-
tration instrument, make two incisions about as long as the  tes-
ticles  near  the center of each. Cut deeply enough to go through
the outside body skin. Cutting or not cutting the white  membrane
(tunica  vaginalis) which surrounds the testicle is an individual
preference and is optional on small pigs. Squeeze,  or  pop,  the
testicles  through  the  incision.  If it is difficult to get the
testicle through the incision, enlarge the incision  slightly  at
the end closest to the tail.

     Pull out the testicle toward the tail at a  right  angle  to
the length of the body and cut the cord close to the incision. Do
not pull straight up on the testicle. Repeat  the  procedure  for
the  second  testicle. It is best not to apply antiseptic because
it causes the pig to sit and rub dirt and debris from  the  floor
or  bedding into the incisions, causing more harm than antiseptic
does good.

     Later, observe castrated animals for excess bleeding or  the
presence  of tissue or intestines (hernia). Cut off any cord that
may be protruding from the incision as this may serve as  a  wick
for  infection  but  make sure it is not intestine. If intestines
protrude, gently push them back through the opening and close  up
by  suturing  the  tunica vaginalis. It is much easier to replace
the intestines if the tunica vaginalis covering the  testicle  is
not removed during castration.

Side Cutter Method of Castration

     The side-cut method of castration is successfully  practiced
in  some  parts  of the U.S. (Figure 9). It is a simple technique
that is performed between 4 and 10 days of  age,  when  pigs  are
small,  requiring  only one person to do the job. Problems can be
encountered when pigs are castrated at less than 3 days or  older
than 10 days using this method.

     For this method,* the pig is held with one hand by one  leg,
belly  outward.  With the middle finger, or whichever is comfort-
able to use, the testicles are made more pronounced. The  result-
ing fold of skin is where the incision, is made. Disinfected side
cutters are positioned about two-thirds of the way into the  fold
with  a clean cut made directly through the scrotal tissue (right
of the midline). After the cut on the right side has been made, a
similar  incision,  but  to the left of the midline, is made. The
testicles are made to pop out through the incisions as  they  are
pinched  with  the  thumb and forefinger of the same hand that is
holding the pig. Important: Press  very  firmly  with  the  thumb
against  the  pelvis of the pig in front of the scrotum when pul-
ling the testicles out with the side cutters  so  that  the  cord
will break off at the point where the thumb is pressed. Otherwise
it is common to cause a hernia. There is little  or  no  bleeding
with  this  method. The testicle, after it is exposed, is grasped
with the side cutters. Care is taken to avoid cutting through the
cords beneath the testicle as they are now ready to be pulled out
with the testicle. The right testicle and  associated  cords  are
pulled  out slowly and steadily. There is no cutting of the cords
in this method as they are pulled out completely with the  testi-
cle.  Remove  any  loose  cord  tissue left outside the incision.
Nothing but the disinfected side cutters touches the exposed tis-

     For beginning pork producers, it is often  best  to  have  a
veterinarian  or  other skilled individual demonstrate the proper
techniques of castration. Some State Extension Services also con-
duct  swine  farrowing  schools  that  teach castration and other
skills in taking care of baby pigs.
*Hartman, T. J., D. C. Mahan, L. Watkins, J. Reed, D. Dawson  and
M.  Olinger.   1979.  ``A  New Early Castration (side-cut method)
Procedure for Young Swine.'' From Ohio Swine Research and  Indus-
try Report,pp 1-5.


     Your goal should be to process a litter of pigs in about  10
minutes (does not include castration). Pigs born during the night
are processed as one of the first jobs in the morning. Those born
during  the  day  should  be  processed as soon as possible after
birth. All of the following should be done before  moving  on  to
the next litter. Begin processing by:

1    Weighing pigs if this is done on your farm.

2    Clipping navel cord.

     a    Restrain the pig (see section on holding the pig).

     b    Dip cutting tool in disinfectant.

     c    Cut the navel cord.

3    Clipping teeth.

     a    Hold pig in same position as above.

     b    Dip cutting tool in disinfectant.

     c    Cut the eight needle teeth.

4    Cutting tail.

     a    Hold pig in same position as above.

     b    Dip cutting tool in disinfectant.

     c    Cut tail leaving about 1 inch.

5    Giving injections.

     a    Hold pig in same position as above.

     b    Give iron and other injections that  you  use  on  your

6    Notching ears.

     a    Hold pig in a position most efficient for you.

     b    Dip notchers in disinfectant.

     c    Notch ears, using system for your farm.

7    Applying antiseptic to navel, tail, and ear.

8    Castrating (see castration section).


Reference to commercial products is  for  clarification  purposes
only and is not an endorsement of those mentioned nor discrimina-
tion against those omitted.


NEW 3/88 (5M)

Figure 1.  Materials and equipment used in processing baby pigs.
Figure 2.  A simple scale used for weighting pigs.
Figure 3a. An efficient method of holding and restraining the pig.
Figure 3b. Clipping the navel cord.
Figure 3c. Dipping the navel with a fresh tincture of iodine.
Figure 3d and e. Clipping the needle teeth.
Figure 3f. Docking the tail. Leave about a 1-inch tail stump.
Figure 3g. Injecting iron into the neck muscle.
Figure 4.  A. square knot; B. surgeon's knot.
Figure 5.  Examples of ear-notching numbering systems:
           A. Universal ear-notching system using litter and
              individual pig numbers;
           B. Using individual pig numbers.
Figure 6.  Notching the left ear.
Figure 7.  Castration procedure for pigs several weeks old.
           A. Making incision;
           B. Squeezing out the testicles;
           C. Cutting the cord;
           D. Testicles removed;
           E. Restraining the pig;
           F. Removing a testicle.
Figure 8.  One person castrating a young pig.
Figure 9.  Castration, using a sidecutters:
           A. Making the incision;
           B. Exposing the testicles;
           C. Removing the testicle.

Cooperative Extension Work in  Agriculture  and  Home  Economics,
State  of Indiana, Purdue University and U.S. Department of Agri-
culture Cooperating. H.A. Wadsworth,  Director,  West  Lafayette,
IN. Issued in furtherance of the Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914.
It is the policy of the Cooperative Extension Service  of  Purdue
University  that  all  persons  shall  have equal opportunity and
             access to our programs and facilities.