mortality rate tableWhile pork production records help flag trends, the numbers don’t tell you why the trend occurred or identify a solution. A case in point is the Pork Checkoff’s U.S. Pork Industry Productivity Analysis, 2011-2016. The findings show that mortality rates across all production stages increased during that time.

Yes, the 2013 PEDV flare-up contributed to the increases, but once it was under control, mortality rates remained above 2011 levels. Here’s a snapshot:

Wean-to-finish records show a similar pattern with a mortality of 6.33 percent in 2011 and 7.52 percent in 2016. The U.S. Pork Industry Productivity Analysis didn’t assess sow mortality, but PigChamp data show that sow mortality averaged 7.98 percent in 2009 and 10 percent in 2016.

“We used to say if sow mortality reached 5 percent, it was an actionable item,” said Ken Stalder, swine geneticist at Iowa State University.

Focus on the Variations

Averages provide a handy summation, but they can hide a lot, according to John Deen, DVM, professor at the University of Minnesota. He suggests focusing on the variation between herds in the top productivity ranks versus those in the bottom percentile.

For example, sow mortality for the top 25 percent in the PigChamp database is 5.9 percent, with the bottom 25 percent at 14.5 percent.
“That tells us there’s capability to do better,” Deen said. “We need to identify what factors contribute to the differences in order to make improvements.”

To review pig survivability differences between the top and bottom 25 percent go to for the full U.S. Pork Industry Productivity Analysis, 2011-2016.