The newborn piglet has eight needle teeth, sometimes referred to as wolf teeth located on the sides of the upper and lower jaws. Many producers clip these within 24 hours after birth to reduce the chance piglets will lacerate each other and/or the sow’s udder. Some producers have stopped teeth clipping entirely while others do it as needed and they have not observed any serious problems. It seems less necessary to clip teeth of piglets nursing well-milking sows.
However in cases when sows are not milking well or if greasy pig disease is a problem teeth clipping appears necessary for optimum results.
Why are the teeth of piglets clipped?
Piglets bite the sow (mother) in their fight to get hold of one of her teats and suckle. The pain caused by this disturbs the sow causing her to get up and prevents her young from feeding. The cuts to the sow’s udder also allow germs to infect the udder. In their fight to grasp the teat and suckle piglets will also bite and injure one another. The simple practice of clipping the teeth as soon as possible after birth prevents these problems (24 hours after birth).
When to clip the teeth
The piglet’s teeth should be cut as soon as possible after its birth. The teeth can be cut when the pig is only 15 minutes old. The sow and her young should be separated for as short a time as possible. In order to clip the teeth you will need either a pair of tooth clippers, or pliers or forceps. You will need someone to help you separate the sow and her young. You will also need a box containing bedding and a clean empty pen.
Clipping the teeth
Use sharp cutters without nicks in the blades. Otherwise teeth will be crushed, which could lead to infection. Also, replace side cutters that have jaws that do not meet squarely. Avoid ordinary wire cutters as they often are not made with the quality of steel necessary to cut teeth adequately. Cut away one-half of the tooth. Do not remove the entire tooth and avoid crushing or breaking it. Otherwise, an infection is possible or the piglet may not nurse well. Avoid cutting the piglet’s gum or tongue. This will likely make it difficult for the piglet to nurse. Cut the teeth off flat and not at an angle. Piglets are not as apt to cause skin injuries when they fight if the teeth are cut off flat. Wear glasses or goggles to protect your eyes from flying pieces of teeth
- If the sow is not tied up separate her from her young and place her in another pen.
- Take care as the sow with a litter can be dangerous.Corner the young pigs and keep them together or place them in a box.
- Hold the head and press the corner of the piglet’s mouth so that the jaws open.
- Place the clippers on either side of one pair of teeth making sure that the tongue is not in the way. Tilt the head so that the pieces of the teeth will fall out of the mouth.
- Cut the teeth as close as possible to the gums.Clean the clippers before using them on another piglet. Operate on the rest of the litter and when you have finished put the piglets back with their mother immediately.
- Keep young piglets warm.
If teeth clipping is not done properly, it may result in damage to the gums or roots of the teeth. Infection can be caused by clipping teeth too close to the gum. Or, if the tool used is dull or broken the tooth may splinter or split down through the roots causing infection. Infection is painful and will prevent the piglet from eating properly.