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 animals 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Health of the sow is a major concern. They should be on a carefully
regulated vaccination program and culled when they are still in
- 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.
- Do everything possible to ensure maximum colostrum intake including
prompt assistance to weak pigs.
- Carry out processing procedures promptly and correctly to insure
reduced chances of pig to pig and pig to sow injury.
- 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.
- Equipment selection including crates and flooring can significantly
reduce pre-weaning mortality. Time spent investigating equipment
prior to purchase is time wisely used.
- 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.