Improving Piglet Survival
Neonatal mortality in pigs (estimated at 20% per litter, on average) is a major animal welfare and economic concern addressed by the European Union “Welfare Quality” project, which was designed to more closely integrate farm animal welfare into the food chain.
The mortality rate among pigs is 20% per litter, which can represent as many as 2.56 piglets per litter per year. Farrowing crates have been traditionally used to protect piglets from accidental crushing by the sow, but public opposition to the use of crates has led researchers to develop systems for better animal welfare.
Researchers found that survival rates could be improved when breeding from “high survival” boars, lowering the mortality rate to 12% within selected litters. “High survival” boars are selected through studying the genetics of pig mortality and utilizing selective breeding; they are more likely to survive loose-housed or outdoor systems, eliminating the need for farrowing cages.