Shoulder Ulcers Persistent in Danish Sows

DENMARK - In the spring and summer of 2008 researchers from the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences examined no less than 3,831 lactating sows on 98 different farms.
calendar icon 21 January 2009
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The results showed that 17.2 per cent of the lactating sows had shoulder ulcers to a greater or smaller degree on one or both shoulders.

An investigation of the frequency of shoulder ulcers in sows on Danish farms shows that the problem persists. Photo: DJF

This is the first time a study has been made of the frequency of the problem on farms. Earlier studies have been carried out on slaughtered sows at the slaughterhouses and this has not given a proper picture of the situation on the farms.

In the new study the lesions are classified in three categories. Grade1 is a superficial lesion, grade 2 includes all skin layers, while grades 3-4 are deep lesions. 13.0 per cent of the sows had grade 1 lesions, i.e. superficial lesions, while 4.2 per cent of the sows had lesions classified as grade 2 or worse.

There was a big difference in the frequency of shoulder ulcers on the individual farms, says senior scientist Marianne Bonde, Department of Animal Health, Welfare and Nutrition, who headed the study.

"We found sows with shoulder ulcers on all the farms we visited, but on many farm there were only a few sows with ulcers. On other farms there were problems with shoulder ulcers in more than 30 per cent of the sows," she says.

The farms in the study were randomly selected via the central livestock register. The pig farmers were generally very interested in doing something about the problems, says Marianne Bonde.

However, there is a great need for clarifying the causes of shoulder ulcers so they can be prevented. The data collected will form the basis for identifying important causes.

"We will now investigate the importance of the sow’s general health, e.g. body condition, problems stemming from pregnancy, and problems with the legs and feet on the frequency of shoulder ulcers. We will also evaluate the influence of the housing conditions such as how much room the sow has to move around in the farrowing pen, which type of floor material they are lying on, and straw usage. We will also throw light on other elements, such as the conditions in the dry sow housing, feed, and the feeding system," Marianne Bonde explains.

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