How effective are clinical pre-farrowing risk assessment and the use of soft rubber mats in preventing shoulder ulcers in at-risk sows?
Background:Lameness, low BCS and scar tissue in the skin covering the tuber spina scapulae are known as risk factors for shoulder ulcer in sows. In a two-step study, the predictive ability of pre-farrowing clinical examination and the preventive effect of rubber mats on the development of shoulder ulcers in at-risk sows were evaluated. Material and methods:The study included 659 sows that were clinically examined one week before farrowing to distinguish risk sows from no-risk sows. Sows with a BCS ≤ 2 and/or a locomotion score > 3 and/or scar tissue in the skin covering the tuber spina scapulae were classified as at risk of developing shoulder ulcers. The at-risk sows were randomly assigned to either a prevention group in which sows were stalled in farrowing crates equipped with rubber mats, or a non-prevention group in which sows were stalled in standard crates. The shoulder areas were photographed during the first two weeks of the lactation period. Results:The chance of developing a shoulder ulcer was significantly higher for at-risk sows than for non-at-risk sows (OR 5.55, p < 0.0001). At-risk sows stalled in crates equipped with rubber mats as preventive substrates had a significantly lower chance of developing shoulder ulcers than did those stalled in standard pens (OR 0.54, p = 0.0358). Conclusions:The development of shoulder ulcers in sows can be predicted by clinical pre-farrowing risk assessment based on BCS, locomotion score and scar tissue scoring. Providing at-risk sows with farrowing crates equipped with rubber mats had a statistically significant protective effect.
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