U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have discovered a way for producers to quickly measure a newborn piglet’s nursing ability and increase odds of survival in at-risk piglets.

Physiologist Jeffrey Vallet and fellow scientists at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, NE, developed a measuring technique called “immunocrit,” which determines whether young piglets receive adequate sow colostrum.

The immunocrit measures newborn piglet serum immunoglobulin in blood samples. Vallet reports these measurements indicate the mortality and nursing ability of piglets.

Scientists discovered a link between immunocrit measurements, piglet weight and mortality. They found that piglets that weighed more survived better without colostrum than did piglets that weighed less.

The measuring technique provides fast results – while the piglet is still alive – which provides the opportunity for intervention strategies to save at-risk piglets, Vallet says.

Learn more about this new method at www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr.