- Animals: swine
- Animal Production: housing
Pork producers using alternative production systems contribute to the local economy by producing diverse products (such as natural and organic pork) utilizing local resources. The long-term viability of alternative swine production depends on profitability, which is largely associated with production efficiency. One of the major factors contributing to reduced efficiency in alternative swine production is pre-weaning mortality of piglets. Currently, average pre-weaning mortality in loose farrowing systems is 26% in the Midwest (Kliebenstein et al. 2007), which is about two-fold of that in confinement systems (10-13%). The majority of the deaths are not caused by disease, but by crushing and starvation. On average, piglet crushing accounts 50-75% of total pre-weaning mortality, which costs pork producers in the United States about 700 million dollars annually (estimated from USDA, 1998). Early piglet death not only represents economic loss, but causes welfare concerns because 70% of piglets crushed are potentially healthy and viable. By reducing non-infectious pre-weaning mortality while maintaining litter size, litter size weaned can be increased, and thereby improve efficiency of sow production and enhance piglet welfare. The North Central region has the highest density of pig production and the largest share of alternative swine production systems in the U.S. Developing and implementing management protocols to reduce pre-weaning mortality in Minnesota and Iowa will have a huge impact on alternative swine production systems not only at the regional level, but at the national level. Increasing the number of alternative swine production systems will decrease the environmental impact of liquid manure produced from traditional confinement systems. This will have a positive impact on the environment, as well as the surrounding community.
Project objectives from proposal:
The major objectives of this research project are to develop a model to identify the major factors associated with non-infectious pre-weaning mortality, to develop a management protocol to manage these factors, and to validate this protocol on farms using alternative housing and production systems. The anticipated goal is to wean 1 more pig per litter than the average number of pigs weaned on each farm.
Producers will be provided with essential information on ways to improve piglet welfare by identifying the factors that contribute to piglet mortality. In general, increased profit and improved welfare conditions for the pigs in alternative systems will contribute to the long-term viability of farmers using alternative production systems, the local economy, and the environment.