Reducing Stillbirths and Mummifications


70-90% of stillborn piglets occur during farrowing PRRSv is a major cause of pre-farrowing death


Recognising the stillborn piglet

Mummified piglets.  The age can be estimated by crown to rump length in mm divided by 3 and add 21 = days

Thimbles covering the feet are worn down within 15 minutes of life

Presence of long umbilical cord and meconium (piglet faeces on skin)

Reducing stillbirths



Every 30 minutes.  Use oxytocin (5-10iu).  Prostaglandin inducement. Manual interference


Age of the sow

Stillbirths increase after parity 7


Increase in litter size

Stillbirths increase after 12


Recognise the problem sow

From the pervious litter and age etc.


Slow farrowings

Normal farrowing less than 8 hours.  If longer consider low Iron or Calcium in the blood.  Fe less than 9 µmol/l or Ca less than 1.9 mmol/l consider reviewing diet.


Sow feeding /condition

Over fat sows have longer farrowings.  Lack of exercise results in longer farrowing times.  High parasite levels or disease will increase farrowing times or result in poor uterine tone (push effect)


Temperature of farrowing house

Keep below 20•C.  Watch placement of rear heat lamp



Water flow rate needs to be greater than 2 litres per minute.  Increase fibre before farrowing. Both help to reduce constipation.  Do not overfeed before farrowing as it will lead to oedema.



Parvovirus to gilts single injection on arrival


Crate design

Allow sufficient room for stockpeople to comfortably attend to the sow at farrowing time. Reduce stress and do not have sows cramped when lying down.  No draughts, watch door closure policy.  Have lights dimmed and not too bright.  Playing music will help to settle sows.  Intermingle sows and gilts


Management of piglet tasks

Try not to teeth clip, tattoo etc. piglets within hearing of sows farrowing to reduce stress


Feed back

Feedback faecal material from weaners and farrowing house to gilts and sows.  Depends on farm situation, consult with vet.  This will help with enteroviruses, JEV, Torque Teno virus and Circoviridae stabilization.

Estimating the age of a foetus

If my sows were exposed to an agent (mycotoxin for example)– how big would their foetus be?


Mummified pigs causes and control



Vaccinate gilts on arrival older than 6 months and two weeks before first service



If unit positive, ensure new gilts receive feedback from weaners and have contact with cull growers.  Vaccinate gilts and boars in isolation before moving into a positive herd



Ensure gestating sows do not have access to mouldy feed.  Watch feed bin management and the management of the forward feed troughs



Ensure rats do not have access to the water supply.  Control rodents around the farm.  Have two wallows available in rotation allow one to dry out completely before refilling



(Enteroviruses, JEV, Circoviridae, Torque Teno Virus)

Hygiene, feedback to reduce likelihood of infection

Check foetal heart for PCV2 by IHC.



Reduce mixing stressors and moving of sows, particularly through narrow doorways.


How pathogens move around the uterus between piglets

Stillborn Diagnosis


It is important to differentiate between those animals which are stillborn and those who died with pre-weaning mortality


Repro mummified piglet

PRRS mummified late

Stillborn eye white corneal oedema

Mummified piglet are obviously piglets which have died

Pre-partum stillborns can be easily recognized if partially autolysed, as shown. 

Fresher piglets are more difficult, check the opacity of the cornea.  Freshly dead (less than 24 hours) the cornea will still be clear

Stillborn long wet umbilicus

Stillborn Thimbles on feet

Stillborn feet worn down

A stillborn piglet will be wet with a long wet umbilical cord

Check the feet for ‘slippers’ which protect the uterus from the sharp piglet’s nails

A piglet will rub off their slippers in about 15 minutes

Stillborn meconium in mouth

Stillborn stomach no milk

Lungs float and not



Meconium will be present on the skin, in the mouth, trachea and stomach.  The meconium is the feaces in the unborn piglet’s large bowel, passed when they go anoxic

The stomach will only contain fluid with some meconium, there will be no milk or colostrum

A stillborn piglet’s lung will sink in water, whereas if the piglet breathed, its lungs will float

Stillborn piglet in placenta

Stillborn placenta around neck


Remember to check for the obvious – stillborn piglets will not be ear notched or tattooed.  It will not have umbilical clips etc

Even ‘obviously’ stillborn piglets may be born alive

Stillborn piglet with the umbilical cord around its neck