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Udder Oedema, Failure of Milk Let Down

This presents itself as a failure of milk let down associated with excess fluid in the mammary tissues and is a condition seen in both gilts and sows. The oedema or fluid can be both in the skin and deep in the udder tissue. The pressure produced in the glands once farrowing has ceased prevents a good milk flow and there is a reduction in both the quantity and quality of the colostrum which means a lowered immune status of the piglet. Severe oedema, particularly in the rear glands may result in poor accessibility of teats at sucking time. Such glands often dry off. When piglets eventually find the teat they will not thrive but waste away.

Usually there is a history on the farm of poor milking amongst all ages and one or two pigs per litter having to be fostered at around 5 to 7 days of age due to poor growth. Scouring problems can sometimes be related back to udder oedema and a poor intake of colostrum.


  • It is characterised by a clinically normal animal with no fever or loss of appetite.
  • The distinguishing features are a firmness and swellings of all the glands, discomfort on high pressure but no actual pain.
  • Mastitis may develop.
  • Palpitation of the udder shows fluid either just beneath the skin or deep in the gland and often extending between the legs towards the vulva. The vulva is also often involved.
  • No milk.
  • Constipation.
Piglets, Weaners, Growers
  • N/A

Causes / Contributing factors

  • High levels of feed 7 to 10 days before farrowing, particularly high energy levels.
  • Constipation associated with a reduction in fibre intake
  • Breed of sow.
  • Lack of exercise.
  • Low intake of water.


This is based on the demonstration of oedema of the udder, by appearance and palpation and the appearance of the litter. Oedema and congestion can lead to mastitis.

Further Reading

Click on the links below to find out more about this disease, including treatment, management control and prevention information. The top link is the main article on this disease.