Research Article: Abrasions and lameness in piglets born in different farrowing systems with different types of floor

Date Published: September 25, 2008

Publisher: BioMed Central

Author(s): Mate Zoric, Ebba Nilsson, Sigbrit Mattsson, Nils Lundeheim, Per Wallgren.


The quality of the floor is essential to the welfare of piglets as abrasions often are recorded in newborn piglets, and such lesions may lead to lameness. Apart from animal suffering, lameness contributes to losses in form of dead piglets, decreased growth, and increased use of antibiotics and manual labour.

In a herd with three different farrowing systems, 37 litters (390 piglets) were studied until the age of 3 weeks with respect to presence of skin wounds and abrasions. Lameness was registered until the age of 7 weeks. Eight lame piglets were sacrificed before medical treatment and subjected to necropsy including histopathological and microbiological examinations. Isolates of streptococci, staphylococci and E. coli were tested with respect to antimicrobial resistance. Mastitis was observed in ten sows.

The most severe abrasions at carpus and soles were seen in the system with a new solid concrete floor with a slatted floor over the dunging area. The lowest magnitude was observed in the deep litter system with peat. Sole bruising was more common in the systems with concrete floor compared to the deep litter system with peat, and the differce in prevalence was significant at all examination days. The lesions decreased with time and about 75% of the treatments for lameness were performed during the first three weeks of life. The overall prevalence of lameness was highest in the system with new solid concrete floor with a slatted floor over the dunging area (9.4%) followed by the old solid concrete floor (7.5%). A lower (p < 0.05) prevalence was seen in the deep litters system with peat (3.3%). No significant relationship between mastitis and abrasions or lameness in the offspring was observed. There were large differences in the prevalence of abrasions and lameness between the floor types. The deep litter system with peat provided a soft and good floor for piglets. The overall prevalence of lameness was only diagnosed in every fourth litter in that system compared to in every second litter in the systems with concrete floor. In contrast, the incidence of mastitis in the sows during the first week after farrowing was higher than in the systems with concrete floor.

Partial Text

Abrasions, wounds and necrosis in the skin or on the hooves and accessory digits, are very common in newborn piglets, and can almost be classified as “normal” in most pig farms [1,2]. Foot and skin lesions cause discomfort to the piglets and also provide an entry for infections, which may result in lameness [1]. Lameness in sucking piglets is observed in about every second litter and around 75% of the treatments against lameness are effectuated in very young piglets, less than 3 weeks of age [3-5].

The skin lesions were generally bilateral and most commonly observed as abrasions over the carpal joints (Figure 1, Table 3). On day 3, the skin lesions at carpus were dominated by mild to moderate lesions in all three farrowing pen systems (n = 117, 63% in the new concrete floor with slatted floor over the dunging area; n = 120, 58% in the old solid concrete floor and; n = 153, 53% in the deep litter peat system). In the concrete floor systems, these lesions increased in prevalences and magnitudes until day 10, but decreased at day 17 (via 77% to 41% in the new concrete floor with slatted floor over the dunging area; via 73% to 27% in the old solid concrete floor). In contrast, the prevalence of the carpal lesions decreased significantly with time in the deep litter peat system (37% day 10; p < 0.001 and 14% day 17; p < 0.05). Foot and skin lesions can cause lameness at piglets, either because of pain due to the injury itself or acting as an entrance for infections affecting joints and thereby causing pain [1,5]. If inducing bacteraemia, arthritis, endocarditis, or meningitis may develop [6,14]. As all piglets were handled by the same staff, the results of this study obviously suggest that the immediate environment plays a primary etiological role in the appearance and development of abrasions and lameness in suckling piglets. The explanation is to find in the damage potential of the floor, which depends on the contact surface and the resistance of the piglet. If the force in a strain exceeds the resistance of the skin a physical damage will arise [15,16]. Concrete floors cause more foot and leg problems than earthen floors or deep straw bedding, and injuries occur more frequently on perforated floors. Further, perforated floors such as partially slatted or fully slatted concrete or metal slats cause more lameness than solid concrete floors [17].   Source:


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