Postpartum meloxicam administration to sows but not split-suckling increases piglet growth and reduces clinical incidence of disease in suckling piglets

Elisa A. Arnaud, Gillian E. Gardiner, Keely M. Halpin, Clement Ribas, John V. O'Doherty, Torres Sweeney, Peadar G. Lawlor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Each suckling pig should receive ≥200 g of colostrum within the first 24 h of life, but with increased litter size this is now difficult to achieve. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of split-suckling and postpartum meloxicam provision to sows as a means of ensuring adequate colostrum intake, on growth and health in pigs pre- and postweaning. One hundred and four sows (Large White×Landrace) and their litters, averaging 16.3 piglets born alive, were assigned to one of four treatments in a two-by-two factorial arrangement. Factors were provision of meloxicam (yes/no; Mel/N-Mel) and split-suckling (yes/no; Split/N-Split). Meloxicam was administered intramuscularly at 0.4 mg/kg body weight to sows on release of the placenta (~2 h postpartum). Split-suckling commenced 4 h after birth of the first piglet, with the six heaviest piglets removed from the sow for 1 h to allow the lightest piglets to suckle. This was repeated after 1.5 h. Pigs were weighed at birth and at days 1, 6, 14, and 27 after birth and at days 6, 14, 21, 28, 47, and 129 postweaning. Carcass data were collected at slaughter. Medication usage was recorded from birth to slaughter. There was a split-suckling by meloxicam interaction effect at days 1 to 6 (P<0.001) and days 6 to 14 (P<0.001) after birth. Meloxicam administration had no effect on average daily gain (ADG) when split-suckling was applied; however, when split-suckling was not applied, postpartum meloxicam administration increased ADG. There was a meloxicam×split-suckling interaction for ADG from weaning to day 6 postweaning (P=0.03). Meloxicam increased ADG when split-suckling was applied but not in its absence. Carcass weight was increased by meloxicam (P=0.01) but was not affected by split-suckling (P>0.05). Meloxicam use in sows reduced the number of clinical cases of disease (P=0.04) in suckling pigs which tended to reduce the volume of antibiotics (P=0.08) and anti-inflammatories (P=0.08) administered. Split-suckling had no effect on medication usage in sows and piglets during lactation but increased their use from weaning to slaughter. In conclusion, postpartum administration of meloxicam to sows is an easily implemented strategy. It reduced clinical cases of disease, increased ADG in pigs during the first two weeks of life and early postweaning and increased carcass weight at slaughter. However, no split-suckling benefit was observed.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberskad275
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Publication statusPublished - 03 Jan 2023


  • anti-inflammatory
  • Antibiotic
  • colostrum
  • farrowing
  • large litters
  • weaning
  • Parturition
  • Lactation
  • Postpartum Period
  • Incidence
  • Pregnancy
  • Animals
  • Meloxicam/pharmacology
  • Swine
  • Female
  • Weight Gain


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