Sow mortality is a pork producer concern regardless of the country of origin. Given their rising rates, Danish researchers took a look at causes of spontaneous deaths and culling of sows. They especially focused on locomotive disorders.

They looked at 265 culled sows, 93 of which spontaneously died, and 172 that were culled, from 10 different herds. Necropsies were performed and the sows were grouped according to primary diagnoses. Researchers collected tissues for histological evaluation and samples for bacteriological cultivation from 35 of the sows. They also conducted secondary diagnoses and recorded body condition information.

They found that the main culling causes were related to the animal’s locomotive system, involving 72 percent of the sows. Among those, arthritis affected 24 percent, and fractures involved 16 percent. The main causes of spontaneous death were related to the gastrointestinal system and spleen at 45 percent, and the reproductive system at 24 percent. Arthrosis was a secondary diagnosis in 88 percent of the culled sows and in 92.5 percent of the sows that died.

Culled sows had significantly lower body condition than the sows that died suddenly. The first two parities and the period around farrowing were associated with the highest mortality rates. 

The researchers hope that observations can guide producers as they attempt to monitor, control and reduce sow mortality.