The survival rate of suckling pigs

There is general agreement in the pig industry that a high mortality rate is a wellbeing-related and financial challenge on which extra attention should be concentrated. The industry is seeking to ensure that the survival rate for suckling pigs is to increase by one pig per litter by 2020.

In 2017, the average mortality rate among suckling pigs was 21.7 per cent whereas some populations had a mortality rate of only 14.5%.

In the breeding work there is much emphasis on breeding liveborn and strong suckling pigs with the breeding target of "Live pigs by day 5" (LG5) and SEGES, the Knowledge Centre for Pig Production, is also working on methods to strengthening the sows’ maternal instincts.

The Danish pig industry conducts extensive research and development activities in animal welfare and areas that may directly contribute to reducing the mortality rate, e.g.:

  • More liveborn pigs
  • Higher survival rate in the first and most critical day of life
  • Improved layout of and environment in pigsties and pig houses
  • Management strategies targeted maintenance of big litters
  • Disease prevention between units

Since 2010, "self-control for animal welfare" has been compulsory for 95% of all Danish pigs. The self-control programme must contain a target with initiatives that will increase the survival rate of suckling pigs. This target must be followed up annually and is supervised in the industry’s quality assurance programme the DANISH Product Standard.

The pig breeders will then, on an ongoing basis, follow the number of dead pigs in each pig population and together with their veterinarian they will focus on a continued reduction of the number of dead pigs. After all, the pig breeders depend on breeding live pigs.