To decrease these losses, staff should use good sow management and provide effective early piglet care.
Pre-weaning mortality (PWM) is a significant cause of economic loss in the swine sector. While we often see an increase in PWM with larger litter sizes, we can reduce or prevent these losses with proper management.
Many factors contribute to PWM. This article will focus on the most commonly reported causes, which include crushing, low viability and starvation. Control of PWM begins with good herd management prior to, during and after farrowing.
As litter size increases, the amount of room in the uterus per piglet decreases, which can increase the number of small low-viability piglets born. Piglets with a birth weight (BW) of 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) or less are significantly less likely to survive than piglets that are bigger. Sow management prior to farrowing is important to reduce the number of small piglets per litter.
PWM is highest in gilt litters. This situation is partially related to the fact that many gilt litters have more small piglets compared with litters from older sows. It is important not to breed gilts less than 135 kg (297 lbs.) because their small size will increase the number of growth restricted small piglets per litter.
Proper nutrition during gestation for all gilts and sows is essential to reduce the number of low-BW piglets.