Sows, young gilts and gilts

Oesophagostomum spp. (worm)

Infection with Oesophagostomum spp. was previously an overlooked subject, but they can actually have a very negative impact on production.

  • Growing pigs show reduced growth and lower feed conversion.
  • Severe infections can result in actual diarrhoea.
  • Sows get reduced milk ability which affects the piglets to a high degree.

In addition, infection with Oesophagostomum spp. and possible treatment are therefore important factors for the herd’s health and productivity. Resistance in Oesophagostomum spp. is a problem. If starting treatment against Oesophagostomum spp. in the herd, follow-up samples should be taken to ensure that there has been a sufficient effect of treatment.

In Ø-Vet it is a standard procedure to take faeces samples regularly where we, among other things, test for Oesophagostomum spp.


Hoof abscesses

Hoof abscesses can be difficult to treat, and they often lead to euthanising.

Timely handling is crucial. The treatment must be started as soon as the sow starts dragging one leg and the first swelling can be seen. Furthermore, you should take a closer look at hoof care and the pen environment.

E.g. what is the distance from the slurry surface to the slat surface? Among cows, an increased tendency toward hoof abscesses is seen if the distance is less than 50 cm.

It is well-known that long hoofs plus a damp and dirty environment causes issues.

When there is a hoof abscess even despite optimal hoof care and environment, you can get a really good treatment effect from hoof baths with brown soap. The local effect is good and a few days of treatment with warm hoof baths can result in a significantly better treatment effect than injection alone. The hoof baths can be made in many ways – the important thing is that the sow stands in soapy water up to above its dewclaws, that the bottom is slip-resistant and that the sow stands in it for minimum 30 minutes/day.


Light in the dark

Before the dark time of year (from equinox to New Year), you should remove cobwebs, wash and replace light tubes as necessary. There must be 100 lux and preferably right up to 200 lux in the insemination unit. Remember that it is the level of light at the sows’ eye level which is relevant. Even if there is a good light intensity at your head level, equipment, rooting/enrichment material etc. can absorb so much light that the sows do not get sufficient light which affects their reproduction.

If you are in doubt about the light intensity on your farm, we can measure it in connection with a farm visit. Please contact us before the visit so we can bring our luxmeter in the car. The luxmeters you can download on your phone are unfortunately too imprecise.


Physical therapy

Sore-legged sows that are being treated in hospital pens benefit from exercise. This exercise can be done by giving them access to walk around in some corridor areas daily for 30-60 minutes. It is important that this corridor area is slip-resistant so they do not get injured during their daily exercise.

If the sows are still slightly sore-legged after pain and antibiotic treatment, you can supplement with treatment with painkilling powder mixed into the feed. This to ensure that they move around despite being sore-legged so they do not lose leg strength.


11 sharp pieces of advice for reducing sow mortality

If you have a herd with increased sow mortality (>14%), you can reduce it with the help of these 11 points:

  1. Always buy young gilts from the same supplier, if possible. Furthermore, they should be immunised, so they achieve the same immunity as the rest of the sow herd via vaccination and natural immunisation.
  2. Only inseminate young gilts in medium body condition with straight and strong legs with uniform and healthy hoofs to prevent leg disorders and ensure durable sows. It is therefore important to inspect the young gilts on their way into the herd to prevent later leg disorders.
  3. Assess all sows after every farrowing round where you focus on body condition, hoofs and their movement.
  4. Individual feeding of the sows in all sections helps prevent nonuniform body condition and fights that can lead to injuries.
  5. Slip-resistant floors in all sections are important in order to prevent leg injuries and sports injuries among the sows.
  6. It is important to make a sufficient number of hospital pens for the sows.
  7. During daily monitoring, it is important to activate all the sows which can be done e.g. daily straw supply.
  8. Sows with sore legs, stiff walk, hoof injuries, lack of appetite or sows that have been attacked must be moved to a hospital pen with soft and dry flooring.
  9. Follow treatment strategies agreed with your herd veterinarian for sick and injured animals.
  10. Assess the sows after finished treatment: Is there improvement, should they be retreated or should they be euthanised?
  11. Keep track of registrations of sows leaving the herd, how have they left and what is the reason. These data can help find out if there is a big general problem in the herd that should be fixed by the herd veterinarian.

Vitamin E for sows

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin which pigs cannot form on their own. It is important for a well-functioning reproduction and it also plays a crucial part as antioxidant. In case of vitamin E deficiency, problems are seen with weakened immune system, degradation of muscle and liver tissue plus ”Mulberry Heart”.

Vitamin E deficiency among sows is often particularly visible up to and around farrowing where they are under maximum pressure. Here they can get laboured breathing and die acutely due to heart failure related to Mulberry Heart.

The level of vitamin E in the gestation mix should be minimum 120-150 mg/FE all year whereas the lactation feed can be somewhat higher (180-200 mg/FE).


6 pieces of advice for farrowing assistance

Timely farrowing assistance is an important tool for reducing piglet mortality.

  • After the first 4 pigs have been born (and before end of farrowing), there should always be a wet pig in the pen – if not, you should provide farrowing assistance.
  • Create plenty of room, remove faeces behind the sow, wash the sow with lukewarm water and use a rectal glove with plenty of gel.
  • Take all the pigs you can reach
  • Pigs born with farrowing assistance are often weak and they should be handled as weak-born pigs are usually handled.
  • The contractions might stop temporarily after farrowing assistance as the sow becomes stressed. If more pigs have not been born after one hour, you should provide farrowing assistance again.
  • Use sow boards, pegs, F-discs or other to ensure monitoring and overview of the ongoing farrowings.

Heat stress

Heat stress severely affects sows. Reduced appetite and sudden deaths can be seen among highly gestating sows, and in the farrowing unit the farrowings become protracted and both appetite and milk ability fall. Correspondingly, an increasing piglet mortality and a lower weaning weight are seen.

Furthermore, heat stress can also be seen among weaners and finisher pigs. Therefore, check the following points on your farm:

  • Check the ventilation to ensure optimal air exchange.
  • Check the water pressure
    • 6 L/minute in the gestation unit
    • 8 L/minute in the farrowing unit
    • 4 L/minute in the finisher pig unit
    • 2 L/minute in the nursery
  • Check the sprinkling system for clogged nozzles.

Furthermore, you could consider

  • Lime-washing windows on the sunny side
  • Moving feedings to avoid feeding during the hottest hours
  • Treating the sow after finished farrowing due to the risk of infection (as per agreement with your veterinarian)


Studies show that cold light has a better effect in the insemination unit than warm light as the pigs register light on the cold colour spectrum better. The recommendation is 6000 kelvin in the insemination unit. In other units, you should use 4000-6000 kelvin.

When building new units, renovating or just replacing old fluorescent lights, you should take kelvin into account.

The recommendation for light intensity is still 200 lux at the animals’ eye level 16 hours a day.