Sow pads show promise for reducing shoulder sores, related infections

Everyone needs a good bed — and apparently sows are no exception.

During farrowing and lactation, sows can easily develop shoulder sores, which in turn become infected.  Could a little padding help?

Several producers are answering that question. Working with the Swine Vet Center’s Ross Kiehne, DVM, the group is testing a mat similar to a wrestling mat that’s placed under a sow’s shoulder to provide comfort and allow healing.

They found most shoulder sores will improve when the mats are used, especially when potential sores are first detected, according to Kiehne.

Developing the mat

“We have some producers who are very interested and would like to do what they can for the pigs,” Kiehne said. “If they can make the sows more comfortable, they know [the sows] will do better.”

The prototype mats are a half-inch thick and covered with a canvas-nylon material that can be sanitized. “We don’t know if we can hit them with a power washer but feel we can clean them pretty easily,” he added.

Sows can develop the shoulder sores when lying and lactating on the metal slats of the farrowing crate, Kiehne explained. The skin is a little softer, and the sores start just like bed sores. The sores worsen in the summer when it is wet or humid.

“[Sores] usually don’t lead to any mortality if they’re dealt with,” he added. “But if you left them alone too long, they would start to get an infection…that could be devasting to the sow.”

A mat in every crate?

The question arose about using a mat in every farrowing crate.

“It would have to withstand the washing and the wear and tear of being in [the farrowing room] full-time,” Kiehne said. “I don’t know if it’s ready for that or not.”

He plans to test the mats and see how long they last if left in the farrowing crates permanently.

Another question is if the mats could help with leg issues. “If you had a bad leg, you’d just put [the mat] in a different area,” he said. “That’s tougher because that’s where the manure is a lot of times.

“But any time you can improve comfort and then get them healed…and getting up and down, it is definitely going to improve the longevity of the herd,” Kiehne said.