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Effect of rubber mats on sow behavior and litter performance during lactation

Ruff, Garth R., Pairis-Garcia, Monique D., Campler, Magnus R., Moeller, Steven J., Johnson, Anna K.
Livestock science 2017 v.204 pp. 65-70
body condition, body weight, computers, crushing, databases, estrus, farms, farrowing, farrowing crates, floors, group housing, lactation, longevity, mortality, piglets, pregnancy, rubber, sows, viability, weaning
The objective of the present study was to evaluate the effect of rubber lying mats on sow behavior, production and litter performance throughout lactation. In total, 213 multiparous, late gestation, group housed sows were enrolled in the study after being blocked by parity and classified as lame or non-lame. Sows were randomly allocated to treatments; a farrowing crate with a perforated rubber lying mat (R), or a farrowing crate with standard metal slatted flooring (C). Sow behavior, lesion scores, sow weight, and body condition measurements were obtained once weekly over the course of 4 weeks around the farrowing event (1 week prior until 3 weeks post farrowing day). Piglet weights were recorded during the weeks of farrowing and weaning. Wean to estrus intervals and piglet mortality data were obtained post-hoc via records from the farm's computer database PigKnows®. Sows housed on the R treatment spent an increased proportion of time spent standing (P = 0.02) and tended to spend a lower proportion of their time spent lying (P = 0.07). Sows that were housed on R treatment weaned piglets with lower body weights when compared sows housed on C treatment (P < 0.05). Sows on the R treatment had a higher number of crushed piglets when compared to C treatment sows (P < 0.05). Rubber mats did not affect the total number of body lesions, body condition scores, or body weights of the sows (P > 0.05). In conclusion, rubber mats did not affect behavior of lame or non-lame sows during lactation but impacted weaning weights and total piglet mortality due to crushing. Further research evaluating alternative flooring during the farrowing and lactation period is needed in order to improve sow comfort and longevity while protecting piglet health and viability.