Stillborn pigs

calendar icon 9 November 2018
clock icon 3 minute read

Stillbirths are usually related to large litters, increasing age, slow farrowing or farrowing difficulties. In herds with large litter sizes stillbirth rates are higher and the target level then ranges between 5-7% of total pigs born. Increased stillbirths can also be associated with infections such as Leptospira pomona and PRRS.

Stillbirths - target 3 - 5%
Increases are associated with:

  • Increasing age of sow.
  • Fat sows.
  • Individual sows. Identify by litter size - more in large litters. Monitor their farrowing progress.
  • Breed - They are more common in the pure bred sows.
  • Lack of exercise - poor muscle tone at parturition, associated with individual confinement.
  • Prolonged farrowings. Identify these and investigate.
  • Uterine inertia. Low calcium levels in the diet may be involved.
  • High farrowing house temperatures.
  • High carbon monoxide from old gas heaters.
  • Farrowing crate and floor designs which precipitate farrowing difficulties.
  • Foetal anoxia (lack of oxygen) - resulting from uterine inertia.
  • Early placental separation.
  • Haematoma/bruising of umbilical cord.
  • Assisted farrowings.
  • Diseases of the sow, fever, mastitis, etc.
  • Parvovirus infection.
  • The use of certain boars.

The types of stillbirth:

  • Pre-partum - The piglets died a few days before parturition - no lung inflation.
  • Intra-partum - The piglets died during farrowing - no lung inflation. Usually maternal failure.
  • Post-partum - The piglets show evidence of some lung inflation but fail to breath properly.

Stillbirths may arise due to:

  • - Mechanical anoxia.
  • - Hypoglycaemia (low sugar).
  • - Hypothermia (low body temperature).
  • - Low viability.
  • - Maternal failure.

To reduce stillbirths:

  • Identify the group cause by post-mortem examination.
  • Do not let the age of the herd spread beyond the seventh litter.
  • Identify problem sows from the previous histories and monitor their farrowings.
  • Look at breed differences.
  • Check sow condition.
  • Check farrowing house environment.
  • Check farrowing pen design.
  • Monitor farrowings.
  • Interfere early in prolonged farrowings.
  • Give good management at farrowing.
  • Provide a heat source behind the sow at farrowing.
  • Study herd records.
  • Check haemoglobin levels in sows.
  • Check parasite levels.
  • Check for blood parasites.
  • Check for diseases in the sow.
  • Clean and service gas heaters.
  • Check quality of sow feed, particularly minerals.
  • Check water quality if using bore holes.

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