BACKGROUND: The status of alpha-tocopherol (vit E) and selenium (Se) has been shown to influence disease resistance in pigs, and may be important for the health of weanling pigs. METHODS: Plasma levels of both vit E and Se were followed in weanling pigs under field conditions in six Norwegian pig herds. Plasma vit E and Se were measured in 3 sows from each herd and 4 piglets in the litter of each sow at the day before weaning (day -1); and in the same piglets at days 4, 8 and 18 after weaning. RESULTS: Mean plasma vit E was 4.0 microg/ml in the sows and 2.6 microg/ml in the piglets at day -1, fell to 1.6 microg/ml in the weanling pigs at day 4, and remained low. Mean plasma Se was 0.22 microg/g in the sows and 0.08 microg/g in the piglets at day -1, rose to 0.10 microg/g in the weanlings at day 4, and continued rising. CONCLUSION: The results suggest that vit E and Se supplementation to piglets and weanling pigs in Norway may still be suboptimal, but that levels of the two nutrients partially compensate for each other in the weaning period.