Higher Mortality of Low-birthweight Piglets in Danish Study

DENMARK - New research shows that 60 per cent of pre-weaning piglet deaths occur in the first four days, with crushing by the sow and general small size and weakness as the main causes of mortality.
calendar icon 17 June 2014
clock icon 3 minute read

Recent work in Denmark has looked at the cause of death in pre-weaned 1,465 piglets, reports the UK's National Pig Association (NPA).

Denmark, which has highly prolific sows, has a pre-weaning mortality rate of around 13 per cent, as a percentage of live-born piglets. And if stillborn piglets are included, the rate climbs to 21.8 per cent, according to 2013 data.

In the latest study, researchers divided the pre-weaning period into three segments.

  • Days 1-4 (about 850 casualties; 59 per cent of total)
  • Days 5-11 (about 300; 21 per cent), and
  • Days 12-weaning (just under 300; 20 per cent)

Much of the pre-weaning mortality was caused by crushing. In the first four days after farrowing, it amounted to about half of the deaths. Another high-scoring category was non-viable pigs, or piglets born weak, immature or with a birthweight below 700g.

The study suggests a 700-g birthweight is critical because at this size 60 per cent of piglets will not live, whereas at 800g, mortality is just under 40 per cent. At a birthweight 300-400g, none of the piglets survived.

Average birthweight in the study was 1.32kg, with 1.37kg being the average birthweight of those piglets that survived all the way through to weaning.

Other categories named by researchers were sepsis, hernia, trauma, arthritis, starvation, enteric disease. Sepsis proved to be one of the major causes of pre-weaning mortality in the later phases of farrowing.

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