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Sow level risk factors for early piglet mortality and crushing in organic outdoor production

  • L. Rangstrup-Christensen (a1), M. A. Krogh (a1), L. J. Pedersen (a1) and J. T. Sørensen (a1)

Piglet mortality is a major problem in organic pig production affecting both farm economy and animal welfare. Knowledge is scarce on the risk factors of piglet mortality in Danish commercial organic pig production. The objectives of this study were to evaluate season, litter size, parity, sow body condition and stillborn littermates as risk factors for early piglet mortality and crushing of liveborn piglets from parturition until castration at day 3 to 5 postpartum (pp). The study was conducted over a 1-year period in nine commercial Danish organic pig herds practicing outdoor farrowing all year round. Data included recordings on 3393 farrowings with 50 284 liveborn piglets of which 14.8% died before castration. A subset of the dead piglets were collected and necropsied to identify crushed piglets. The average number of liveborn piglets per litter was 14.8 (SD=3.7) and the average time from parturition until castration was 4.1 (SD=1.7) days. A negative binomial regression analysis was used to model the effect of the predictive variables on the early piglet mortality accounting for different time periods from parturition to castration. An increase in maternal body condition score (BCS) and parity significantly increased the risk of dying between parturition and castration. Early mortality was found to be lowest during spring (March to May) and highest during summer (June to August). Being born into a litter with one or more stillborn littermates increased the risk of early mortality. The risk factors for crushing of piglets were evaluated using a logistic analysis. A significant effect of parity and litter size was found where the odds of at least one piglet in a litter with mortality was diagnosed as crushed increased with increasing parity and litter size. In conclusion, being born during summer (June to August), high parity and maternal BCS and stillborn littermates were found to be risk factors for piglet mortality between parturition and castration. In addition, parity and increasing litter size were found to be risk factors for crushing of piglets in litters with mortality.

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