Reducing Pre-weaning Mortality in Loose-Housed Farrowing Systems
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 major objectives of this research project:
Phase 1: Identify risk factors contributing to pre-weaning mortality of piglets in loose farrowing systems.
Phase 2: Develop management strategies to reduce pre-weaning mortality of piglets in loose farrowing systems.
Phase 3: Determine the effectiveness of the management protocol to decrease pre-weaning mortality of piglets in loose farrowing systems.
The anticipated goal is to wean 1 more pig per litter than the average number of pigs weaned on each farm.
Phase I: Identify risk factors contributing to pre-weaning mortality of piglets in loose farrowing systems is accomplished. A survey for farmers was designed assess specific causes and impact of piglet mortality on production efficiency on alternative swine farms in Minnesota and Iowa. This survey was distributed and collected at Niman Ranch Regional Meetings, as well as through Minnesota Extension. From the completed surveys, six farms have been recruited to participate in this study (four in Minnesota and two in Iowa).
Phase 2: Develop management strategies to reduce pre-weaning mortality of piglets in loose farrowing systems is currently in process. A general management protocol was developed based on the survey to minimize risk factors to piglet survival and maximize profitability. Additionally, because each alternative swine farm has different types of housing, types of farrowing pens, genetics, feeding programs, bedding management, etc., we are working with each farmer to develop a protocol that they are willing to adhere to on their individual farm. Each farm has been toured, data collected regarding current management procedures, and provided with a temperature recording device and record sheets to record current sow performance. Data will continue to be collected on each farm until the summer of this year (2011).
Phase 3: Determine the effectiveness of the management protocol to decrease pre-weaning mortality of piglets in loose farrowing systems will be completed once all of the data has been collected and analyzed.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Producers will be provided with essential information on ways to improve piglet welfare by identifying the factors that contribute to piglet mortality. 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.
University of Minnesota
46352 State Hwy 329
West Central Research and Outreach Center
Morris, MN 56267
Office Phone: 3205891711