A 10-year trend in piglet pre-weaning mortality in breeding herds associated with sow herd size and number of piglets born alive

Yuzo Koketsu, Ryosuke Iida, Carlos Piñeiro

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Background: Piglet pre-weaning mortality (PWM) is one of the biggest problems regarding sow performance and piglet welfare. Recently, PWM has increased in some countries, but it is not known if there are similar increases in other countries, nor whether increased PWM is related to either increased numbers of piglets born alive (PBA) or to sow herd size. So, the objectives of the present study were 1) to explore the trend in PWM in Spanish sow herds over a recent 10-year period, along with related measurements such as PBA, stillborn piglets, herd productivity and herd size; and 2) to examine the relationships between PWM and the related measurements. Methods: Herd-level annual data from 2007 to 2016 for 91 herds in Spain were abstracted from a sow database compiled by a veterinary consultancy firm that asked client producers to mail data files on a regular basis. The database software automatically calculated herd-level PWM (%) as follows: the total number of piglets born alive to a sow completely weaned during a year (TPBA) minus the total number of piglets weaned by the completely weaned sow during the year divided by TPBA × 100. All the statistical analyses were performed by using SAS University Edition. A growth curve model was applied to incorporate correlations for all of the observations arising from the same farm. Results: Over the 10 years, herd means of PWM (standard deviation) increased from 11.9 (4.1) % to 14.4 (3.2) %, and mean PBA increased by 1.9 pigs. Mean age of piglet death during lactation increased by 3.8 days, and later years were significantly associated with herd size and the number of piglets weaned per sow per year (PSY; P < 0.05). Higher PWM was associated with more PBA, more stillborn piglets and small-to-mid herds (lower than the median size: < 570 sows; P < 0.05). Also, there was a significant interaction between the herd size groups and PBA for PWM (P < 0.05): as PBA increased from 9 to 14 pigs, PWM increased by 9.6% in small-to-mid herds, compared with an increase of only 6.6% in large herds (> 570 sows). Furthermore, as PWM decreased from 18 to 8%, herd productivity measured as PSY increased by 2.2 pigs in large herds, compared with only 0.6 pigs in small-to-mid herds. Conclusion: Large herds were better than small-to-mid herds at alleviating the association between increased PBA and increased PWM. Also, the relationship between decreased PWM and increased herd productivity was improved more in large herds than in small-to-mid herds.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
JournalPorcine Health Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Herd size
  • Piglets
  • Pre-weaning mortality
  • Year trend


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