It's been reported that the mortality rate for female pigs in the US doubled from 5.8% to 10.2% on farms owning more than 125 sows between 2013-2016, according to an organisation that collects data across 800 companies.
The numbers have been linked to a troubling rise in prolapse – the collapse of the animal’s rectum, vagina, or uterus. In some cases the prolapse itself is fatal. In others the pig is euthanised as a result. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the figures reported on different farms varies considerably. According to the organisation collecting the data, some farms have seen no rise, or much smaller rises, while a separate report identified that some farms were seeing prolapse causing as many as 25%-50% of sow deaths.
Veterinarians are widely recognised societies health and welfare experts and, in theory, in many cases touted as the profession that when all else fails, protect the animal from unnecessary or unreasonable suffering. In this instance, has been reported that the American Association of Swine Veterinarians has created a sow prolapse working group, but their findings so far have been inconclusive. At this point, the National Pork Board announced a multi-year research collaboration with Iowa State University’s Iowa Pork Industry Center designed to collect more data and get a broad overview of the problem. Iowa is the top pork producer in the USA. The study aims to collect detailed data from 400,000 sows – or about 13% of the nation’s 3 million working sows – on more than 100 farms across 16 states.