Tips to lowering sow mortality

Mitch Christensen is Chief Veterinary Officer and leads Topigs Norsvin Global Veterinary Services team. The veterinary team develop and strengthen the health, diagnostic monitoring, and biosecurity plans of nucleus, multiplier, and boar stud farms. They provide vital support for our customers and partners.

Mitch’s tips to lowering sow mortality:

  1. Take the time and effort needed to diagnose the cause of death accurately. “Unknown” is one of the top reasons recorded for sow mortality. Implementing effective interventions is much easier when you know the root cause of the mortality.
  2. Develop a solid gilt selection and acclimation program. Make sure there is a process in place to evaluate gilts for good structure and movement before using them as replacements. The expression used in data management, garbage in, garbage out, holds true to replacement gilts as well. When gilts enter a sow herd, they are challenged with a variety of stressors from new pathogens, environments, pen mates, etc. Spend time with your herd veterinarian developing a solid gilt acclimation program for the endemic pathogens on your farm so the gilt’s immune system is ready to handle these new challenges.
  3. Evaluate every sow every day. An off-feed sow is the #1 indicator that something is not right with the animal. Early detection and treatment will lead to the best outcome. A helpful practice is to move quickly through the herd at the time of feeding and flag all animals off feed. Return later to perform a more thorough evaluation and administer the appropriate treatment.
  4. Keep your sow herd in good body condition. The modern sow will give birth to more piglets with increasing birth weights, produce more milk, wean heavier piglets, wean more piglets, and be more feed efficient than ever before. Give the sow the nutrients she needs to maintain her structure, body condition, immune system, and reproductive performance. Contact your local nutrition support to check if your diets comply with modern genetics.
  5. Focus on sow care at the time of farrowing. Many farms focus on day one care of the piglets but don’t forget to take care of the mother. The sow has just been through the stressful event of farrowing. So it is important to make sure she is drinking, eating, and defecating. If the sow is not doing all three, there should be a care plan in place to help get the sow back on track.

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