Pre-Weaning Mortality

Farrowing room records consistently indicate pre- weaning death losses in the range of 12 to 15%. These same types of records also show some operations where death losses of 5 to 8% can be achieved regularly. The decrease is often due to the recognition that pre-weaning mortality is directly related to the requirements of the animal and the ability of the herdsperson to meet the animal’s needs.

Trauma is found to be the greatest cause of death in 30-45% of pre-weaned pigs. A very high percentage (85%) of these deaths occurs in the first three days of life. Of the pigs that die from trauma, 70% were otherwise healthy.

In response to this problem there are several steps that can be taken.

  1. Insure sows are in good body condition at farrowing. An overweight sow experiences severe distress when farrowing and is more likely to step or lay on newborns when agitated and moving.
  2. Pay particular attention to the nutritional needs of the sow so she is able to milk to the needs of the litter. Avoid overconditioning animals, but insure they have adequate feed and body reserves to nourish the litter.
  3. Health of the sow is a major concern. They should be on a carefully regulated vaccination program and culled when they are still in good health.
  4. Extra heat should be provided both beside the sow and behind her to give a draft free living space temperature of 86° to 93°F (30° to 34°C) for the first 3 days. In contrast, the sow probably prefers a temperature in the low 70°F.
  5. Do everything possible to ensure maximum colostrum intake including prompt assistance to weak pigs.
  6. Carry out processing procedures promptly and correctly to insure reduced chances of pig to pig and pig to sow injury.
  7. Practice fostering by weight and do it within the first 24 hours of life. Litters that are large, medium and low by weight can be managed more successfully than litters of a wide weight range.
  8. Equipment selection including crates and flooring can significantly reduce pre-weaning mortality. Time spent investigating equipment prior to purchase is time wisely used.
  9. Much of the knowledge we have on this subject comes from paying meticulous attention to the causes of the deaths. Each operation should keep records suitable to identify and correct problems that may occur.

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
Author: Ed Barrie - Swine Sow, Nursery Specialist/OMAFRA
Creation Date: 01 June 2000
Last Reviewed: 15 February 2008