Swine-herd success starts with the feet

Int-FFUpdate12-3-15

A solid foundational structure helps prevent future sow lameness

Structural soundness is a basic component for building long-term success in a sow herd, says Dean Compart, Compart’s Boar Store, Inc., Nicollet, Minn., USA, a prominent supplier of Duroc, Yorkshire and Landrace breeding stock. A correct foot, rear-leg and rump structure are particularly important to avoid lameness and the problems that go with it, he states.

“The feet are probably the most important structural part of the pig —that’s the foundation, and the area continuously experiencing wear and tear,” says Compart, who likens breeding for structural soundness in a pig to designing a long-lasting building with solid footings. “Size and evenness of toes are really important, because the toes are what bear the weight and take the most abuse.”

When evaluating breeding stock for structural soundness, Compart recommends starting from the ground up. “You really want to see toes that are even in size in order to equally distribute the weight,” he says. “I look for large toes that are square, evenly proportioned and pointed forward (Figure 1).”

If the feet are twisted, either inwardly or outwardly, they will be more likely to move in multiple planes, notes Compart. “Structurally, that can result in slippage and injuries to the dew claws, which can shorten the longevity of sows,” he says. “If an animal is slipping, the dew claws can become damaged or torn, resulting in infected dew claws and feet.” 

If feet develop abscesses, the sow’s potential for longevity in the herd becomes severely compromised, which decreases profit potential. “If you have a high cull rate or mortality rate, because of soundness problems, you won’t realize the full market value of the animals,” he points out. “There is a lot of dollars that can be realized from full value sows.”

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