Pre-weaning piglet mortality is an important cause for economic loss in swine production systems. It has been reported that one-fifth of all fetuses fully formed at the end of gestation die before weaning. Next to piglet birth weight, other sow level and management factors are likely to be associated with pre-weaning piglet deaths. Injuries and crushing due to the sow falling on the piglets while making postural changes constitute a major cause for pre-weaning piglet death.
By L. Anil1, S.S. Anil1, S.K. Baidoo1, J. Deen1, M.E. Wilson2 and T.L. Ward2. 1University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, MN, USA; 2Zinpro Corp., Eden Prairie, MN, USA
In this study 24% of pre-weaning piglet mortality was found to be due to crushing. Analysis indicated significant association between number of pre-weaning piglet deaths and parity of the sow, claw lesions and housing system. Sows of parities 1 and 2 and parities 3 to 5 had 61 and 36% lower piglet death due to crushing respectively, compared to sows of parity >5 (P<0.05 for both). For every unit increase in claw lesions in front limbs, the number of pre-weaning piglet death due to crushing increased by 8% (P<0.05). A higher hind limb claw lesion score was also associated with higher number of piglet death due to crushing, though this association was not statistically significant. Sows housed in group pens had 39% less piglet death due to crushing compared to sows housed in stalls during gestation.
The positive association observed between parity and piglet death due to crushing could be due to the smaller litter size in younger parity sows. An increase in number of piglet death due to crushing with an increase in front limb claw lesion score is suggestive of restriction due to pain in making the necessary postural movements to avoid uncontrollable falling within the farrowing crate, leading to a higher number of piglet crushing. A higher number of piglet crushing in stall housed sows could be related to a lack of exercise and consequent reduction in muscle weight and bone strength. This study indicated a positive association between higher pre-weaning piglet death due to crushing and factors such as higher parity, stall gestation housing system and higher claw lesion scores in front limbs.