The Orphan Piglet


Michele Alford

SG Baby fostering



Care for orphaned or very young pigs:


First, you should know it is very difficult to save an orphaned or new born piglet.  They NEED their motherís milk for the nutrients and colostrum and it is very difficult to replicate those things, so consequently, some pigs just donít survive. 



The most important thing to remember is that these babies MUST be kept very warm.  The ideal temperature for them is 90 degrees.  You can either use a heating pad or a heat lamp.  Make sure the lamp is very secure and wonít fall down.  Newborns cannot produce their own heat or regulate their body temp, so you have to provide a constant warm temperature for them.  Baby pigs can die quickly from hypothermia, so it is vital that they are kept warm 24/7.  While their ability to generate their body heat begins working, at about 3 weeks, I recommend you still provide a heating pad with room for them to move off it if it gets too hot.    




Babies will not eat if they are too cold.  Babies need temps in the mid 90s to be comfortable.

I do not recommend bottle feeding because it is very easy for a pig to aspirate (get the milk in their lungs) and die. 

Sometimes an eyedropper has to be used, but this should be done carefully to keep the milk from going into the lungs. Feed very slowly if you must use a dropper. 


You can use a flat dish (a coffee saucer, ceramic ash tray or coaster) that wonít move all over when they are trying to eat.  Usually you will need to hold the pig in one hand and support the dish in the other hand.   Dip their nose into the dish and they will eventually figure out how to lick the milk.  You may have to dip your finger in the milk and put it in their mouth so they understand there is food in the dish.  In the beginning they will fight, fuss & squirm, but after a few tries of biting the milk, they catch on. You can also make a little rag teat.. simply twist the end of a wash cloth to make a small end and dip it into the milk solution and then into the pigletís mouth.


What to feed


For a newborn, you can mix 3 parts canned goat milk with 1 part melted butter, and 1 part sugar (honey or dextrose).  Slightly warm the mixture each time you feed Ė if you use a microwave Ė make sure there are no hot spots in the mixture.  Because newborns (birth to one week) can only eat so much at a time (approx 2 oz), they must be fed every two hours around the clock.  At a week old, feeding moves to every 3 or 4 hours during the day, but no longer feeding through as long as the last feeding at night is around 12am, and the first feeding in the morning is around 7am. 


If you decide to use sow replacer, pay close attention to the time the directions that state how long milk is good once it has been opened since old formula can cause problems. 


Once you have chosen what you will feed the pig, donít change it since change formulas can cause diarrhea, which can lead to death for a piglet very quickly.


You can start adding crushed Mazuri Youth pellets at about three days, by making it very liquid at first, and then gradually increasing the amount of feed as the pig ages.  At about two weeks you are basically feeding them a paste.  You can provide a small amount of water during the day as well.


You can begin feeding just softened (in goatís milk) Mazuri Youth at about 4-5 weeks.  Gradually reduce the liquid until they are eating just the hard pellets, usually about 7 weeks.  The rule of thumb at 8 weeks is 1/2 cup of pellets per 15 lb of piglet, broken into at least two or three meals.  Offer veggies in small pieces as treats. Keep plenty of water in front of them.

Babies should gain about 1 lb a week


New born piglets will have a dark stool that changes to more yellow color at about three days.  If you see or feel just a clear liquid stool, your pig has diarrhea and you need to get the pig to a vet, since this will kill a baby pig very quickly if not treated because they dehydrate quickly and they donít need more food/liquids, they must have an antibiotic.


Do NOT give a baby pig a B-12 or Iron shot.  Not only is this unnecessary, but can be deadly.  If the baby pigs are outside, they donít need iron supplements, since they get what they need from the dirt.  If you are keeping the baby inside, you can put down a tray or cookie sheet of clean dirt (dirt that has not had pigs on it) for him to walk through and get his own iron from it.  


If he goes more than 24 hours without peeing, eating or drinking, something is seriously wrong and he needs to see a vet immediately.  If he goes more than 3 days without going pee/poop, he needs to see a vet immediately.  




Your New Baby:


Pigs are very vocal creatures! They make all kinds of sounds, from high pitched squeaks, to snorts and grunts, to panting "ha-has", to loud screams and deep, guttural "horror movie" noises.

In the wild, pigs are prey animals. The only time a piglet is lifted up is when a predator picks him up to eat him! Your piglet needs to overcome this natural fear. When he sees you and squeals, he's saying "hello". If he squeals when you take him outdoors, he's excited about playing outside.

Listen to his vocalizations and notice where he is and what's happening when he makes them. Pretty soon you'll be able to translate all his sounds.

hen you bring your new pig home, he (or she) will probably be very nervous and scared, since he has left everything familiar behind and has to adjust to all new people and surroundings. Be patient at first. You will want to keep him or her in a small confined area until he is more comfortable. Let the pig explore a bit and get comfortable with his new surroundings, and once he doesn't seem apprehensive, try to get him to approach you by tempting him with food. Sit on the floor with the pig, and offer a bit of food (for piglets, it is probably best to just use their regular food for most of the training - small bits of vegetable or fruit could be used for special treats). You may just need to put the food on the floor in front of you at first, and gradually work up to the piglet taking the food from you. Do this repeatedly over the course of the first few days at home and have everyone in the family have a turn so that the piglet can bond with all the family members.



Once your piglet is comfortable with being near you and taking food from your hand, you can reach out and try to scratch your piglet gently under the chin or along the sides. Move slowly, and speak calmly and gently to your pig. Remember to give treats as you do this, and the piglet will eventually realize this is a pleasant experience. Move at a pace that your piglet is comfortable with, though. If he resists being scratched or petted, back off a bit until he is more accepting.

There is a fairly fine line between spending enough time with your piglet and spending too much time. While you want to take the time to get to know your pig and have him or her trust you, you also want to make sure you do not lavish too much attention on your baby, or he will come to expect attention all the time. This is also true of using food as a training tool - spend time with your pig without giving treats as well, or he will think of you as a food dispenser and may start to expect or demand food constantly. Keep the bonding and training sessions short and regular, with breaks to give the pig time to rest and develop the ability to entertain himself a bit too.