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Reduce Sow and Piglet Mortality to Improve Productivity and Profitability

5 minute read

Sow mortality and piglet survivability are two key drivers of overall system productivity and profitability for a swine producer. 

We know that in order for a sow to pay for herself and go on to become a profitable investment for the producer, she must farrow at least two to three litters. If a gilt or sow dies before that point, she never gets a chance to recover her development and initial investment costs.  

High sow mortality rates increase replacement rates and force swine producers to accept gilts into the sow farm that do not actually meet the physical and genetic characteristics of an ideal replacement gilt, ultimately impacting potential profits. When you accept “non-select” gilts as replacements into your farm, you add cost through fewer robust piglets, and early parity females leaving the farm before they have reconciled their cost to the system. 

Employing effective culling strategies and culling sows before they become mortality cases is key for improving your bottom line. Look for sows that are too thin, wean poor quality litters or are showing signs of locomotion issues or indications of other health ailments. 

Let’s explore some tactics being used to lower sow and piglet mortality as well as how nutrition plays a role in improving productivity and profitability. 

Swine Management Tips to Lower Piglet Mortality

Piglet mortality rates have been particularly volatile in recent years, ranging from as low as 15% to as high as 20% on average. This leads to fewer pigs making it to market and less gross income for a swine producer.  

While there are still many improvements to be made regarding reducing sow and piglet mortality rates, management practices currently in place have been successful. 

For example, research conducted by Kansas State University & New Fashion Pork has revealed that piglet survivability is greater if sows are offered smaller meals several times per day or ad libitum access to feed, as opposed to one large meal per day, in the 3 to 5 days prior to farrowing.  

Providing the highest possible level of day 1 pig care really helps set the piglets up for success. Generally, the piglet mortality rate is highest within the first few days after farrowing and is relatively less after the first 3 to 5 days in lactation. If a piglet can make it through day 3, it has a really good chance of making it through weaning and becoming a robust and productive growing pig. 

We should also continue focusing on farrowing piglets with birthweight of 1 kg or more. The data tell us that we have a real opportunity to keep pre-weaning mortality below 20% if we can farrow piglets with 1 kg or more of birthweight. 

Another option swine producers are using to reduce pre-weaning mortality is split suckling. As litter size continues to increase, swine producers must ensure that newborn piglets receive the colostrum they need. Split suckling consists of temporarily segregating the piglets from the mother who have theoretically consumed their quantity of colostrum. This is so they are not competing with piglets who still need to consume the needed quantity of colostrum. 

Cross-fostering is another common technique. The intent is to provide piglets with the best possible chance at survival by placing them in an environment where other piglets are similar in size, so they have greater access to milk. This technique consists of removing a piglet or piglets from a sow (litter) early in life and establishing that piglet onto another sow within a new litter. That piglet will remain on that new sow until weaning. Reasons why a swine producer may cross-foster include: 

  • A sow might not be milking heavily enough 
  • Teat count and functionality may be compromised 
  • A litter may have a large variation in bodyweight 

Proven Trace Mineral Nutrition Plays a Key Role in Reducing Sow and Piglet Mortality

Trace minerals play a critical role in swine health, reproductive performance and growth and production. They also play a critical role in fueling a rapid and robust inflammatory response to immune challenges, leading to improvements in livability and most importantly, reducing the cost of production. 

For example, developing gilts and sows supplemented with  Zinpro® Availa® Sow have a higher concentration of Immunoglobulin G (IgG) in their colostrum. Higher-quality colostrum helps produce more robust piglets, leading to higher survivability rates, heavier weaning weights and ultimately heavier market weights. But what is the direct impact on sow mortality? When gilts and sows were routinely supplemented with Zinpro Availa Sow over time, data from commercial sow farms indicated a rise in mortality was mitigated, compared with those fed alternate trace minerals.  

Zinpro® Performance Minerals® capture these value points through unrivaled post-absorptive effects, which allows for these nutrients to reach the target tissues in the animal. The Zinpro unique absorption pathway improves sows’ ability to mount a rapid and robust inflammatory response to immune challenges, thereby improving health, reducing mortality rates and reducing weaned pig costs. Take advantage today of the animal performance and cost-reducing opportunities by formulating gilt and sow diets with Zinpro Availa Sow! 

To learn more about reducing sow and piglet mortality by including Zinpro Availa Sow in swine rations, contact your Zinpro representative today