Looking to help the U.S. pork industry raise the bar for performance and reverse the surge in sow mortality rates, Zoetis has introduced Individual Sow Care — a comprehensive, on-farm training program that teaches caregivers and production managers the value of conducting health, welfare and performance assessments on every sow, from every breed group, every day.
“Sow mortality rates in the United States have increased dramatically in recent years and now average about 15%,” Dr. Eva Jablonski, a technical services veterinarian for Zoetis, said at the 2020 Iowa Pork Congress in Des Moines, Iowa, where the program was unveiled.
“While pelvic prolapses and lameness are among the most visible conditions associated with sow mortality, 39% of sow deaths are categorized as unknown. We believe that taking a more holistic and individualized approach to sow care — one that proactively assesses sow health, performance, body condition, environment — will go a long way toward reducing losses and improving sow productivity,” Jablonski added.
Individual Sow Care is a one-day program that combines classroom instruction and hands-on training in the barn. Weeks before the session, Zoetis representatives conduct an on-farm review of the sow farm’s history and performance, as well as facilities, health challenges and other factors that may contribute to production losses or mortality. The training program is then customized to meet the needs and challenges of that specific farm, Zoetis said.
“Our goal is to help each farm identify opportunities for improving the well-being and performance of each sow,” Jablonski added.
Focus on observations
Individual Sow Care, which may be used with sows housed in stalls or groups, focuses on the importance of conducting daily observations of each sow — evaluating animal behavior, environment, feed/water intake and stools and urine, in addition to temperature, posture, body and teat condition, lesions, perineal area damage, lameness, milk supply and the condition of piglets.
Zoetis awards a plaque to each group of trainees that completes the program and has also developed an in-barn poster to remind trainees of specific Individual Sow Care checkpoints.
Individual Sow Care was built on the success of Individual Pig Care, which was introduced in 2005. According to Jablonski, that program has helped train hundreds of caregivers and production managers on the importance of walking the pens and checking every pig, every day, to help ensure optimum health, welfare and performance.
“The response to Individual Pig Care, combined with the surge in sow mortality rates, led Zoetis to create Individual Sow Care,” she added.
For more information on Individual Sow Care, veterinarians and producers should contact their Zoetis representative.