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Investigation of the Use of Meloxicam Post-farrowing for Improving Sow Performance and Reducing Pain

12 February 2014

Administering the pain-killer, meloxicam, to all sows post farrowing did not improve piglet survival and growth, according to new research from Canada.

The effects of meloxicam administered to sows shortly after parturition on nursing behaviour and piglet survival and growth were investigated by first-named author, R. Tenbergen and colleagues at the University of Guelph in Canada and published in Journal of Swine Health and Production.

A total of 289 sows and their litters were used. Sows within 12 hours of farrowing were randomly allocated to receive either an intramuscular injection of meloxicam (extra-label) or a placebo. Researchers were blinded to treatment.

All piglets were weighed within 12 hours of birth, at castration and tail-docking (five to seven days of age), and prior to weaning (19 to 21 days of age). Litters were categorised as small, medium and large.

Additional measurements involving the sow, including position changes, rectal temperatures and feed intake scores, were performed on a smaller number of the study sows.

There were no significant treatment effects on piglet mortality or growth rate. However, growth rate of pigs in medium-sized litters (11 to 13 pigs) tended to be better for sows treated with meloxicam than for sows given a placebo (P=0.07).

Growth rate was positively correlated with weight at birth and at weaning (P<0.001) and negatively correlated with sow parity and litter size at birth (P<0.001).

Piglet mortality was not associated with treatment but was associated with large litter size and light birth weight (P<0.001).

Meloxicam given to all sows post farrowing does not result in improved piglet survival and growth.

Improved performance might be noted if only sows having difficult farrowings were treated, concluded Tenbergen and colleagues. They added that further studies are required to confirm this hypothesis.

Analgesics such as meloxicam, a relatively long-acting non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), are licensed for food-producing animals in some countries although, at present, use of meloxicam for sows is extra-label in Canada and in the United States.


Tenbergen R., R. Friendship, G. Cassar, M.R. Amezcua and D. Haley. 2014. Investigation of the use of meloxicam post farrowing for improving sow performance and reducing pain. J Swine Health Prod. 22(1):10–15.

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February 2014

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