When to wean a baby pig.
Most of the time, you won’t have to worry about weaning piglets. The sow will take care of it on her own. A sow usually begins to wean her pigs between six and eight weeks, although some have been known to keep nursing piglets until twelve weeks.
Nature has many mechanisms to make sure that babies grow up and hit developmental milestones on their own, without our interference. Teeth are a great example of this. A sow will wean her piglets earlier if you do not cut the ‘needle teeth’ (sharp baby teeth that are sort of tusk-like) than if you do. The needle teeth are used for claiming dominance at the teat. Piglets will tussle with each other while nursing and use those teeth to drive a sibling away. A piglet can cause some damage to mama, however, if they aren’t careful where they are fighting brother or sister at.
Lacerations to the teats of a sow are very painful (I’m sure most women can sympathize). They can also be dangerous to the health of both sow and piglet. Cuts can become infected, leading to poor health on the part of the sow. If the cut is oozing, the pus can be ingested by the piglet or can get into a cut left by a sibling and cause infection there.
Hog breeders will often clip the needle teeth of the piglet a few days after birth. This cuts down on the likelihood of a mammary infection in the sow and scarred up noses on the piglets. However, because needle teeth aren’t the only teeth a piglet has, damage can still occur if a sow does not wean her piglets on time. This is when she needs help and humans intervene.
First of all, you must be careful. Baby pigs are delicate and can be easily hurt. They are also very fast and small and can get into places you wouldn’t believe. Also, keep in mind that mama can be very protective of her babies. This is a large, strong animal with strong maternal instincts and she will NOT hesitate to take you out to protect her babies.
The best thing to do is to very quietly separate the babies from mama. Turning them from a farrowing crate or stall into a larger, yet still controllable, area often works. While the babies are running around exploring everything, you can remove them from the pen one by one and the sow may not even notice. The best bet to distract the mother is to put some grain in a feed bowl. While she’s eating, grab the piglets by the back leg and move them to their new pen.