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A study was designed to test the potential benefits of selective tooth clipping (the practice of leaving the eye teeth intact in the smallest piglets of a litter to make them more competitive) under commercial conditions. A total of 346 litters were assigned to either the control treatment where all piglets had their teeth clipped, or the experimental treatment where one or more piglets of low birth weight had their teeth left intact. Piglets were weighed within 24 h of birth and at 7, 21 and 56 d. In litters of 12-14 animals, but not in smaller litters, the lower-birth-weight piglets had lower mortality in experimental than in control litters (32.0 vs. 39.8%), whereas higher-birth-weight piglets showed a trend in the opposite direction, with 14.4% mortality in experimental vs. 13.2% in control litters (P = 0.05. The weight gain of lower-birth-weight piglets was greater (166 vs. 143 g d‒1) in experimental than in control litters of 9-11 piglets, but the heavier piglets competing against the small litter-mates with intact teeth had lower weight gains than the controls (177 vs. 187 g d‒1) (P < 0.02). Within-litter variance of 21-d weights was about 15% smaller (P < 0.005) in experimental than in control litters. Thus, selective tooth-clipping does not improve overall growth and survival, but it contributes to more uniform weaning weights and may help the most vulnerable piglets to remain alive until fostering or other intervention can be accomplished.


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