Timing and causes of piglet mortality in alternative and conventional farrowing systems.


The causes and timing of piglet mortality were studied in different farrowing systems. In the first experiment 198 litters were recorded in three systems, two of which allowed the sows to move freely, and the third restricted them in conventional crates. More piglets were weaned from the conventional crates than from the open systems and they grew more quickly. More than half the liveborn mortality occurred during the first four days after parturition. In the open systems, 17 per cent and 14 per cent of the piglets born alive were crushed, compared with only 8 per cent in the crates. In the second experiment, 29 sows and litters were studied in detail in a communal pen system during the first seven days of lactation. Three-quarters of the liveborn mortality was due to crushing. The total number of piglets dying per litter, including stillbirths, was significantly associated with the total litter size and the sow's parity. The percentage liveborn mortality was significantly associated with the parity and body length of the sows and with the within-litter variation in the birth weight of the piglets. Individual birth weight was closely associated with percentage survival. Only 28 per cent of piglets weighing less than 1.1 kg at birth survived to seven days.