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Are Larger Litters a Concern for Piglet Survival or An Effectively Manageable Trait?

Sciprofile linkSophia A. Ward, Sciprofile linkRoy N. Kirkwood, Sciprofile linkKate J. Plush
Published: 17 February 2020
 by  MDPI
 in Animals
Animals , Volume 10; doi:10.3390/ani10020309

Abstract: In the swine industry, sows are selectively bred for larger litters so, theoretically, more pigs can be sold per year. As producers continue to increase the number of piglets born in a litter, it is necessary to review problems that can arise in larger litters, and whether these issues can be effectively managed and/or require pharmacological intervention. Additionally, this review will reflect on whether selecting sows for larger litter sizes is an ethical concern, regardless of how effectively it can be managed. As sows continue to be selected for greater prolificacy, it is important to review problems that arise in larger litters, and whether these issues can be appropriately managed. Although a proportion of piglets in larger litters can be born underweight, proper supervision around farrowing and adequate colostrum intake has the potential to improve the survival of low-birth-weight piglets and their ongoing growth to weaning. As larger litters can impart greater stress and discomfort on sows, implementing a low-stress environment leading up to parturition may improve sow performance and subsequent survival of piglets. Additionally, treating sows with anti-inflammatory compounds, either dietary or pharmacologically, shows some promise for alleviating sow discomfort and improving piglet survival in larger litters. Understanding that selecting sows for larger litters not only affects piglet survival but the well-being of the sow, the decision to continue selecting for larger litters, regardless of management strategies, remains a topic of ethical concern.
Keywords: mortality / Pre-weaning / Farrowing / management piglets

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