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Characteristics of Organic Pig Farms in Selected EU Countries and Their Influence on Piglet Numbers

03 December 2013

Piglet mortality was higher on farms with larger average litter size, especially where there was a wide range in numbers born, according to a new study from the EU that examined the production records of a number of organic pig farms.

Better knowledge of piglet losses around birth and during lactation, and the role of litter size, housing and management characteristics, should help to identify critical points and hence to improve the situation in organic pig farms, according to Armelle Prunier from INRA in Rennes, France.

Reporting together with co-authors from other EU countries in the journal, Organic Agriculture, she explains that, for this purpose, a project was initiated in five EU countries to collect interview data, measures of animal and housing characteristics and production records.

This paper presents their results regarding production characteristics from 82 herds. Among them, 42 farms were included in an analysis based on the production records.

Based on sow housing system during the first two weeks after farrowing, farms were classified as 'indoor' (n=49) or 'outdoor' (n=33).

For each group, a multiple correspondence analysis and subsequent hierarchical classification were carried out to identify distinct farm categories. In total, 30 variables from the questionnaires and measured characteristics were used after binary transformation when necessary.

Three types of indoor farms and two types of outdoor farms were identified.

Regarding litter size at birth and weaning, there was no clear difference between the types of indoor farms and one type of outdoor farms, whereas the second type of outdoor farms - which were more 'extensive' - had lower performance.

Prunier and co-authors concluded that production records showed a detrimental influence of high farm average litter size at birth on piglet mortality and that high-standard deviation in litter size may exacerbate this problem.


Prunier A., S. Dippel, D. Bochicchio, S. Edwards, C. Leeb, K. Lindgren, A. Sundrum, K. Dietze and  M. Bonde. 2013. Characteristics of organic pig farms in selected European countries and their possible influence on litter size and piglet mortality. Organic Agriculture.

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December 2013

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