Abortion and embryo loss

Abortion is the premature expulsion of dead or non-viable foetuses. This condition affects pregnant sows.
calendar icon 9 November 2018
clock icon 7 minute read

Treatment and management

Records help to identify reproductive problems. These should include information on:

  • Age (or parity) profile of the herd.
  • Sow number.
  • Feed and amounts given.
  • Clinical observations of the sow and any disease history.
  • Parity
  • Boar used during mating; date of service.
  • Failure to come on heat.
  • Date of abortion and condition of aborted piglets.
  • Culling rates.
  • Bleeding and discharges from the vulva.
  • Repeats, sows not in pig.
  • Lameness.
  • Litter sizes.
  • Mastitis, lack of milk, swollen udders.
  • Deaths and their likely causes.
  • Poor conformation.
  • Prolapse of the vagina or rectum.
  • Savaging.


  • Increase feed intake from days 3 to 21 after mating.

Heat and light management

  • The outdoor breeding female should always be derived from at least one pigmented parent.
  • Provide extensive shades so that the sows can protect themselves from the sun.
  • Site the arks in the wind direction so that with open ends cooling can take place.
  • Provide extensive well-maintained wallows suitably sited so that sows do not have too far to reach them.

Contact with the boar

  • Boar presence in the dry sow accommodation is recommended from the day of service through to the day of farrowing. The boar should be mixed in or have access to the group for at least the first 21 days of pregnancy. There is clear evidence that this will improve farrowing rates particularly if they are associated with summer infertility. If sows are individually housed the boar should be allowed to move down the passages and make social contact daily.
  • Increase the mating programme by 10-15% over the anticipated period of infertility.
  • Because boar semen can be affected follow each natural mating 24 hours later by purchased AI.

Mycotoxin management

Always check your feed bins. Are they water tight?

When were they last inspected internally?

Do they contain bridged mouldy feed?

Are the bins filled with warm feed?

Do you regularly treat the bins to prevent mould growth.

Are the bags of feed kept in a dry cool or wet warm place?

If you practice home mixing and wet feeding are the tanks and pipes mould free?

Are you ever tempted to give feed to sows that has been slightly mouldy.

If you wet feed:

  • Do you check the roofs of your mixing tanks to see whether feed splashed on to them has gone mouldy.
  • Do you check the pipes?
  • Do you check the source materials?
  • Do you let liquid components of the mix sit around in hot weather in storage tanks?

Emily Houghton

Editor, The Pig Site

Emily Houghton is a Zoology graduate from Cardiff University and was the editor of The Pig Site from October 2017 to May 2020. Emily has worked in livestock husbandry, and has written, conducted and assisted with research projects regarding the synthesis of welfare and productivity of free-range food species.

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