Sow selection key to reducing use of farrowing crates

19 April 2002

Sow selection key to reducing use of farrowing crates

By Wendy Owen North-east correspondent

SELECTING sows for their ability to consistently produce high litter survival rates may make it easier for pig producers to move away from farrowing crates in the future.

That conclusion was drawn by Susan Jarvis, SAC Edinburgh, following the discovery that some housed sows are consistently good mothers, rearing large numbers of piglets throughout their reproductive lives, while others are less successful.

Dr Jarvis evidence, reported at BSAS, came from the collection of farrowing records from 125 sows on a commercial indoor unit over 11 years. Out of 7727 piglets born alive, 1185 died before weaning, which gave a mortality rate of 15.3%.

Crushing accounted for almost half of piglet deaths, while starvation led to 31% of deaths.

Further investigation confirmed earlier work, which suggested that all causes of mortality increase as the number of piglets born alive rises and that more deaths occur as litter weight decreases.

"Breeders have selected for increased litter sizes, but this may have led to higher piglet mortality. We wanted to look at whether we could breed for lower piglet mortality.

"Sows could be assumed to have similar hormone level across all their parities, which might influence piglet survival. Their condition scores may also remain very similar throughout their lives, due to the way their bodies deal with food."

But she added the consistency of performance indicated in her study could be a result of differences in ability to cope with farrowing crates, uterine effects on piglets or the quality of maternal behaviour. &#42


&#8226 Dependent on sow.

&#8226 Genetic link possible.

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