Sow lameness is the second leading cause of culling sows in a herd
Foot lesions can bleed away profits on swine operations, but many foot problems can be prevented by proper trace mineral nutrition in sow diets. Copper, zinc and manganese are the three trace minerals most demanded by sows. Feeding the right amounts of these minerals is essential to the longevity and reproductive success of sows.
The cost of lameness
Second to reproductive failure, sow lameness is the next reason sows are culled from herds. An average of 30 to 35 percent of sows in any given herd experience lameness, according to Zinpro Corporation field observations. Producers should target that number to be just 10 percent of their herd.
Early culling of sows also cuts into profits. This is due to potentially decreased farrowing rate, smaller litters and limited progeny performance, which are all traits linked to early parity sows.
Mike Hemann, swine account manager at Zinpro, agrees on the importance of decreasing turnover in the sow herd.
“We know that a sow must reach her fourth parity to realize her economic potential,” he says. “By working to decrease lameness in the sow herd, we can increase the longevity in sows and, in turn, can see more sows reach their economic potential.”
Lameness is a multi-factorial problem that can be attributed to numerous causes, Hemann notes. Nutrition, management, facilities and animal structure can all contribute to lameness in a herd.
Foot problems or lesions are the most visible symptoms that can be related to lameness issues. Specifically, white line cracks, heel sole cracks, severe heel overgrowth and erosion, as well as vertical wall cracks are the most painful lesions that will contribute to lameness. Setting up the sow for success early in her life through proper gilt development nutrition, phenotypic selection pressure and early training to either crates or electronic sow feeding (ESF) systems will help reduce lameness in younger parity animals.
“Lameness in a herd is not solved by one ‘magic bullet,’” he says. “Hoof trimming is also an option that some systems have chosen to adopt in order to address the issue of long toes. Early identification of moderately lame animals by management is also critical in mitigating lameness within a herd.”