There is potential to breed for high piglet survival in alternative farrowing systems to the crate, if results of a study by Emma Baxter of SAC can be replicated in commercial herds.

A trial using two groups of gilts, one bred for high postnatal survival and the other a control group, she explained. “Recent estimates of pre-weaning mortality range between 16 and 19% and environmental modification using the farrowing crate is reaching its potential to decrease mortality and is also raising serious welfare concerns. A different approach to effectively address piglet survival is needed.”

Overall, gilts bred for high postnatal survival crushed piglets on a total of three occaissiona, while the control group crushed piglets a total of seven times. “And it is piglet shape which is the most important survival indicator,” she added.