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US pig industry unites to address sow mortality

The United States swine industry has started an industry-wide research effort to identify specific factors related to sow mortality.

The Iowa Pork Industry Center (IPIC) at Iowa State University is taking the lead in the research, according to a press release by the university.

In the press release it is explained that when the sow mortality rate due to pelvic organ prolapse has started to increase throughout the industry with no apparent defined reasons, that’s cause for concern.

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The project involves 10 faculties from Iowa State University, extension specialists and a large group of industry partners that bring different thoughts and perspectives to tackling an important issue such as this.

Identifying causes of sow pelvic organ prolapse

IPIC director Dr Jason Ross said in the press release: “The long-term objective of the project is to identify causes of pelvic organ prolapse so specific mitigation strategies can be developed and used. At this point, the project includes more than 400,000 sows on more than 100 farms across 16 US states. The farms are of varying sizes, ownership, facility types and genetics.”

IPIC is working with large production systems, smaller independent producers, a variety of sow housing designs, and numerous genetics, with a goal of representing the industry as a whole. Enrolled farms may have high, medium or low reported levels of prolapses, Dr Ross said. This will help researchers identify and analyse possible risk factors that appear to be commonly associated with pelvic organ prolapses.

“A major component of our work is to gather consistent mortality data from all farms to create accurate benchmarks,” he said. “This data is shared with the participating groups in a confidential manner on a regular basis.”

Data collection and analysis portion

IPIC swine programme specialist Amanda Chipman leads the data collection and analysis portion of the project.

Ms Chipman said, “My role includes collecting weekly data on mortalities and prolapses from sow farm managers, and I work with veterinarians, nutritionists and others from production systems to gather historical production, health, nutrition and management information.”

A sow that has perished on a US swine farm. Photo: Casey Bradley
A sow that has perished on a US swine farm. Photo: Casey Bradley

“We started collecting on-farm data in mid-January and were on 45 farms by the end of March. The opportunity to be on the farms collecting data and meeting the sow farm managers and company representatives has really been a privilege.”

Ms Chipman also works with ISU faculty through the entire data collection process, from deciding what to collect and how to collect it, to how to summarise and analyse the findings.

Underscoring the collaborative nature of pork producers

“While the project remains in its relatively early stages, it has been quite successful in underscoring the collaborative nature of pork producers and their commitment to continuous improvement of animal health and well-being,” Dr Ross said in the press release.

“Also, the networks we’ve established with industry and academic partners are expected to facilitate rapid dissemination of project results as they become available.”

Funding for the project came from National Pork Board, which realised the need for a coordinated approach to the problem.

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