Pigs: Lameness (PB1148)

Effects of Pig Lameness

The general effect of lameness is pain and suffering for the animal. This leads to reduced mobility resulting in an inability to compete with pen mates for feed, water and space and interference with mating.

In all types of pigs, lameness leads to increased veterinary costs and extra management requirements.

Breeding Pigs

It is estimated that 10 - 12% of sows that are culled each year leave the herd because of leg problems. These include:

  • the ability of a lame sow to stand for a boar;
  • reduced agility, which increases the risk of piglet mortality due to overlaying;
  • predisposition to urinary and genital infections.

Increase culling rates lead to:

  • increase costs for replacement gilts;
  • reduced overall herd performance due to a higher farrowing index;
  • lower average litter size because sows are culled before they reach peak proficacy.

Lameness is also a cause of culling for boars due mainly to an ability to remain mounted during mating. The consequences are the increased costs of replacement and overwork of the remaining boars, leading to lower conception rates.

Growing Pigs

It is estimated that the incidence of splayleg in the British National Herd is 0.45% with approximately half the affected pigs dying. Affected piglets cannot compete with their litter mates for a teat and are at an increased risk of being trapped under the sow when she lies down.

Poor floor surfaces in the farrowing accommodation can damage piglets' knees as they compete for milk, often leading to infected joints.

In growers and finishers, lameness reduces mobility and the ability to move to feed and water. This results in reduced growth rate.

After slaughter, lameness causes condemnation of parts of carcasses, mainly due to arthritis and abscesses. The value of the meat lost because of this alone is estimated at 10p/finished pig. This could cost the industry up to 1.5 million per year.

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