Piglet fostering

Observe piglet behaviour and look out for fading piglets, take remedial action by fostering and providing electrolytes or additional milk.

Back to Indoor farrowing environment

Rules of fostering

  • Foster within the first 24 hours
  • Ensure foster piglets get early colostrum, preferably from their own mother, or, if not, from a very recently farrowed foster mother
  • Give the smaller piglets warm colostrum (sow, artificial or pasteurised bovine) or glucose
  • Foster only once, it can be detrimental to keep moving litters around
  • Remember, small piglets find suckling from large teats difficult
  • Never have more piglets than functioning teats on sows
  • Foster within a room (batch of piglets), wherever possible; don’t move health problems to other groups.


Make sure all staff are aware of your fostering policy. Sometimes, practices change for the better but can revert back if your cover staff are not aware of the changes. Wherever possible, leave piglets with their own mothers to avoid disruption of the litter suckling patterns; even large piglets looking secure and strong will experience growth checks if fostered, especially if moved around frequently.

Download a work instruction for shunt fostering

Download a work instruction for swapping litters

Download a work instruction for split suckling

Even up numbers of piglets per litter

Matching the number of piglets to the number of functioning teats allows each piglet to have easy access to the colostrum produced after farrowing. This improves piglet survival rates and increases the chance of piglets achieving their potential growth rates.

Helping low birth weight piglets

It is a great disadvantage for small piglets to have to compete with larger littermates. Litters of small piglets should be created from all the ‘smalls’ born in a given farrowing day. Foster litters of small piglets should be put with low-parity sows; the teat size of a low-parity sow will match the small mouths of the small piglets.