Piglets don't need to be weaned early, according to research from the University of Adelaide.
Sows don't typically start their oestrous cycles during lactation, which has meant the reduction of piglet weaning ages in the commercial pig industry to maximise the number of litters a sow can produce each year.
Piglets weaned early often don't thrive, with reduced growth and health problems such as diarrhoea being common.
Alice Weaver, PhD candidate with the University of Adelaide's School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, has published research in the journal Animal Reproduction Science that suggests oestrus can be stimulated during lactation.
"The research showed that providing sows daily contact with a mature male pig seven days after giving birth is sufficient to stimulate the oestrus regardless of whether they were still suckling a litter or not," said Weaver.
"We've shown that piglet weaning age should be able to be increased with sows still producing the average 2.4 litters a year.
"Most piglets in Australia are weaned at an average of 24 days. If we can push that out to at least 30 days, the extra time will have significant benefit for the piglets."