Removal of sows in Spanish breeding herds due to lameness: Incidence, related factors and reproductive performance of removed sows

Ryosuke Iida, Carlos Piñeiro, Yuzo Koketsu

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Lameness is a major reason for sow removal in breeding herds. Increased removal occurrences for lameness decrease reproductive efficiency and increase welfare concerns. Therefore, the objectives of this study were to estimate the incidence rate of removal due to lameness, and to investigate the longevity and reproductive performance of sows removed due to lameness. Poisson regression models were applied to a cohort dataset of 137,907 sows in 134 herds located in Spain. The Wilcoxon rank sum test was used to compare the performance of sows removed due to lameness and their controls in one-to-two matched case-control datasets. Removal due to lameness accounted for 4.3 % of all removed sows, and the incidence rate was 19.6 cases per 1000 sow-years (95 % confidence interval: 15.03, 25.51). The majority (70.4 %) of those removed were farrowed sows, whereas only 29.6 % were serviced sows. In farrowed sows, a higher incidence of removal due to lameness was associated with weeks 4–9 after farrowing, higher parity and winter farrowing (P < 0.01). The removal incidence was 24.7–33.1 times higher in weeks 4–9 after farrowing than during the first week after farrowing (P < 0.01). It was 1.3–1.6 times higher in parity 4−5 than in parity 1, and 1.3 times higher for winter farrowing than for summer farrowing (P < 0.01). In contrast, the factors associated with removal due to lameness with serviced sows were weeks 4−5 after service and being re-serviced (P < 0.01). The service sow removal incidence was 4.7 times higher in weeks 4−5 after servicing than during the first 2 weeks after servicing (P < 0.01). Also, it was 2.2 times higher in re-serviced sows than in first serviced sows (P < 0.01). However, removal in serviced sows was not associated with parity (P = 0.10) or service season (P = 0.39). In the case-control datasets, the sows removed due to lameness had higher weaning-to-first-mating interval (means: 6.5 vs. 5.8 days), fewer piglets born alive (11.7 vs. 12.5 piglets) and lower parity at removal (3.4 vs. 4.9; P < 0.01) than sows removed for other reasons or non-removed sows. However, there was no difference in gilt age at first service between the case and control groups (P = 0.29). We recommend identifying sows showing early signs of lameness and treating them with pain medication until removal. The best time for removal would be at weaning when non-productive sow days start.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105002
JournalPreventive Veterinary Medicine
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Downer animals
  • Gait
  • Locomotory disorders
  • Pig production
  • Shared frailty model

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