A cohort study of preweaning piglet mortality and farrowing accommodation on 112 commercial pig farms in England

A.L. KilBride, M. Mendl, P. Statham, S. Held, M. Harris, S. Cooper, L.E. Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A cohort study was carried out on 112 breeding pig farms in England to investigate the impact of type of farrowing accommodation on preweaning mortality in piglets. Four types of farrowing accommodation were studied; farrowing crates, indoor loose pens, crate/loose systems (where the sow was restrained in a crate during birth and the first days of lactation before being moved to a loose pen) and outdoor farrowing in arcs in paddocks. Four estimates of preweaning mortality were collected: an oral estimate from the farmer before the visit, an estimate from the 6-month rolling average from computer records, records from 20 litters observed when the farm was visited and prospective records collected from 20 farrowings after the visit. These four estimates were significantly correlated. The prospective records also included a farmer reported date and cause of death. From the prospective data there were 25,031 piglets from 2143 litters from 112 farms, 6.5% of piglets were stillborn while live born preweaning mortality was 12%. Mixed effect discrete time survival, binomial and competing risk, models were used to investigate the association between preweaning mortality and farrowing accommodation, controlling for sow parity, litter size and number of piglets stillborn and fostered. There was a reduced risk of stillbirths in outdoor farrowing systems compared with crated systems. Farmers reported that crushing of healthy piglets was the most frequent cause of death accounting for 55% of live born preweaning mortality. There was no significant difference in mortality in live born piglets by farrowing system. There was a significantly higher risk of farmer reported crushing of healthy live born piglets in outdoor arcs compared with piglets reared with sows in farrowing crates and a significantly reduced risk of death from causes other than crushing in piglets reared outdoors or in crate/loose systems compared with piglets reared in crated systems. We conclude that, in the farms in this study, farrowing crates reduced the risk of preweaning live born mortality attributable to crushing but piglets in this system were at increased risk of death from other causes. Consequently crates had no significant effect on overall preweaning mortality percentage. In all four commercial production systems; outdoor, farrowing crates, crate/loose farrowing systems and indoor loose housed systems, there were similar levels of mortality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-291
JournalPreventive Veterinary Medicine
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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