A review of neonatal mortality in outdoor organic production and possibilities to increase piglet survival

S. Lina A. Schild*, Emma M. Baxter, Lene J. Pedersen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
93 Downloads (Pure)


The current level of piglet mortality in production systems with outdoor farrowing is high and conflicts with the ethical principles of organic farming. Over the last decade, there has been a rise in scientific studies addressing the level of piglet mortality in outdoor pig production and the causes for mortality. Therefore, the aim of this paper was to review current literature on risk factors for piglet mortality in outdoor pig production, to identify causes of mortality and possibilities for improving piglet survival. A consistent problem related to outdoor piglet mortality appears to be the use of highly prolific sow hybrids. Large litter sizes are accompanied by long parturitions and the birth of piglets displaying signs of lowered viability. Management interventions such as use of birth assistance and caretaking of less viable piglets, as is common in indoor systems, is more difficult to apply in outdoor production. Therefore, based on the present review, we suggest that use of less prolific sow genetics, in systems with outdoor farrowing, may be one way to increase piglet survival. Sows used in outdoor systems should give birth to piglets displaying signs of high vitality and the sows should be able to nurse their own litter. This solution also conforms to the organic mind-set of operating a system with the least possible human intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105088
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Early online date8 Aug 2020
Publication statusPrint publication - Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier B.V.


  • Animal welfare
  • Farrowing and lactating sows
  • Outdoor parturition
  • Piglet mortality
  • Piglet viability
  • Sow genetics


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