Piglets on farms
Piglets are born naked, with little hair, no fat, little liver glycogen reserves and poor disease immunity. It is essential that they are born into a warm, dry, clean environment so they can escape chilling and quickly find their mother’s teat for colostrum. Farm units filmed by Viva! have been far from clean and some piglets have been documented shivering as the heaters in the creep area were not on.
Piglets are born without protective immunity against infection. Until they start to synthesize their own immunoglobulin in sufficient amounts, at four to six weeks of age, they are dependent on the passive transfer of immunity via maternal colostrum. Colostrum provides necessary immune globulins which are directly absorbed prior to gut closure as well as being a rich energy source and gut stimulant. From the minute they are born, piglets find their way to a teat. The sow typically has 14 functional teats, but not all are equally productive.
Indoor sows’ milk is low in iron, because the animals are unable to obtain iron from the soil, so the piglets are injected with iron to prevent anaemia (54).
Naturally curious and playful, piglets on farms are deprived of the complex, engaging environment they would normally encounter in a more naturalistic setting, and this has a profound effect on their behavioural development.