The goal of segregated early weaning is to produce an ultrahealthy growing pig for the nursery and the finisher.

Producers across the United States have rapidly adopted SEW technologies, notes Paul Yeske, veterinarian with the Swine Veterinary Center in St. Peter, Minn. That has caused some growing pains, he concedes.

However, Yeske contends that SEW’s basic principles still lead to success.  The effects of chronic disease can be reduced dramatically.

According to Yeske, SEW can help:

1. Increase pigs’ feed intake.

2. Increase average daily gain.

3. Improve feed efficiency.

4. Reduce mortality in the nursery and grow/finish units.

5. Reduce the overall number of low-value pigs.

6. Because of higher health status, reduce the number of treatments and medications, which helps cut animal-health and labor costs.

7. Improve pork quality by lowering the risk of antibiotic residues and abscesses.

Yeske says the basic principles of a well-run and effective SEW program include:

- Stabilizing diseases in the sow herd. SEW only works for diseases the sow is immune to. Sows pass that immunity on to their piglets through colostrum. Managing to increase sow immunity – vaccinations, feedback programs, on-site gilt development – will help reduce the risk of disease.

- Weaning age. Early weaning is relative. Each disease requires a different weaning age to get pigs away from the sow before colostral immunity runs out.

- Segregation. Distance requirements are unclear, but the sites need to be far enough apart to isolate animals. Separate air spaces with no common hallways or common air-flow patterns are essential. In general, the more distance the better.

- Animal flow. It’s critical to maintain all-in/all-out pig flow by site in nursery and finishing units.

A side benefit of SEW may be improved health status in sows due to the removal of other pigs from the breeding-gestation/farrowing site. It reduces the chance of shedding diseases to piglets before weaning, Yeske points out.