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Title: Improving sow welfare and outcomes in the farrowing house by identifying early indicators from pre-farrowing assessment
Contributor(s): Vargovic, Laura  (author)orcid ; Athorn, Rebecca Z (author); Hermesch, Susanne  (author)orcid ; Bunter, Kim L  (author)orcid 
Publication Date: 2022-11
Early Online Version: 2022-09-05
Open Access: Yes
DOI: 10.1093/jas/skac294
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Poor outcomes reflect low performance during the farrowing and lactation periods and unanticipated sow removals. Since the period around farrowing has the highest risk for sow health issues, monitoring of sows in that time-period will improve both welfare and productivity. The aim of this study was to identify the most relevant risk factors for predicting poor outcomes and the implication for sow welfare. Identifying these factors could potentially enable management interventions to decrease incidences of compromised welfare or poor performance. Data from 1,103 sows sourced from two nucleus herds were recorded for a range of variables investigated as potential predictors of poor outcomes in the farrowing house. Poor outcomes (scored as binary traits) reflected three categories in a sow's lifecycle: farrowing, lactation, and removals. Univariate logistic regression was used to identify predictors in the first instance. Predictors from univariate analyses were subsequently considered together in multi-variate models. The least square means representing predicted probabilities of poor outcomes were then reported on the observed scale. Several predictors were significant across two different environments (farms) and for all three categories. These predictors included feed refusal (lack of appetite), crate fit, locomotion score, and respiration rate. Normal appetite compared to feed refusals reduced the risk of farrowing failure (13.5 vs. 22.2%, P = 0.025) and removals (10.4 vs. 20.4%, P < 0.001). Fit in the crate was significant (P < 0.001) for farrowing and lactation outcomes, and was more informative than parity. Sows with sufficient space had two to three times reduced risk of poor outcomes compared to restrictive crates relative to sow dimensions. Sows with good locomotion score pre-farrowing had two to three times less risk of farrowing failure (P = 0.025) and reduced piglet mortality (P < 0.001), weaned two piglets more relative to affected sows (P < 0.001), and were less likely to be removed before weaning (3.24 vs. 12.3%, P = 0.014). Sows with higher respiration rates had a significantly (P < 0.001) reduced risk of poor farrowing outcomes. This study demonstrated it is possible to predict poor outcomes for sows prior to farrowing, suggesting there are opportunities to decrease the risk of poor outcomes and increase overall sow welfare.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Source of Publication: Journal of Animal Science, 100(11), p. 1-13
Publisher: American Society of Animal Science
Place of Publication: United States of America
ISSN: 1525-3163
Fields of Research (FoR) 2020: 300305 Animal reproduction and breeding
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) 2020: 100410 Pigs
Peer Reviewed: Yes
HERDC Category Description: C1 Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
Appears in Collections:Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit (AGBU)
Journal Article

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