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Piglet mortality on farms using farrowing systems with or without crates

By R. Weber, N. M. Keil, M. Fehr, R. Horat

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Crating sows in farrowing systems greatly restricts their normal behaviour, which is usually justified by the assumption that piglet mortality is higher with loose-housed sows. Based on experiments showing that this is not the case, farrowing crates were banned in Switzerland in 1997. Since then, many farms have introduced loose farrowing systems, enabling a comparison of piglet mortality in farrowing systems with and without crates based on a large sample size. Data of a sow-recording scheme (UFA2000) were analysed using generalised linear mixed-effects models with an underlying Poisson distribution. In 2002 and 2003, the average total piglet mortality on 173 farms (n=18,824 litters) with loose farrowing systems amounted to 1.40 piglets per litter and did not differ from that of 482 farms (n=44,837 litters) with crates (1.42 piglets per litter). Nevertheless, the number of crushed piglets was significantly higher in pens with loose-housed sows (0.62 versus 0.52 piglets per litter), whereas the number of piglets that died for other reasons was significantly higher in crates (0.78 versus 0.89 piglets per litter). Total piglet mortality was influenced by litter size at birth, age of the sow and season. Consequently, evaluation of the reproductive data of commercial farms shows that no more piglet losses occur in loose farrowing pens, common nowadays in Switzerland, than in farrowing pens with crates, and that litter size at birth is the main influence on piglet losses.

Date 2007
Publication Title Animal Welfare
Volume 16
Issue 2
Pages 277-279
ISBN/ISSN 0962-7286
Language English
Author Address Agroscope Reckenholz-Tanikon Research Station ART, Centre for Proper Housing of Ruminants and Pigs, 8356 Ettenhausen, Switzerland.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal genetics
  2. Animal reproduction
  3. Animal rights
  4. Animal welfare
  5. Developed countries
  6. Europe
  7. Evaluation
  8. Farms
  9. Farrowing
  10. Litters
  11. Mammals
  12. Meat animals
  13. models
  14. mortality
  15. OECD countries
  16. peer-reviewed
  17. pens
  18. performance traits
  19. Reproduction
  20. samples
  21. Swine
  22. Switzerland
  1. peer-reviewed