The study, titled How effective are clinical pre-farrowing risk assessment and the use of soft rubber mats in preventing shoulder ulcers in at-risk sows?, was conducted by researchers at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Hanover, Germany.
The researchers, Daniel Meyer, Charlotte Vogel, Lothar Kreienbrock and, Elisabeth große Beilage, conducted the two-part study which was designed to evaluate how effective a clinical risk assessment could be in predicting at-risk sows and how rubber matting could be used to then prevent at-risk sows from developing shoulder lesions whilst in farrowing crates.
A total of 656 sows were clinically examined one week before farrowing and were scored on their body condition (1 = excessively thin to 5 = excessively fat) and semi-quantitative locomotion (0 = no clinical signs of lameness to 5 = avoidance of any limb pressure, exclusive adoption of relieving pressure). Sows with a body condition score of 2 or less and/or a locomotion score of less than 3 and/or scar tissue covering the tuber spina scapulae were classified as at-risk of developing ulcers.
At-risk sows were randomly assigned into one of two treatment groups:
- The prevention group: sows were stalled in farrowing crates with rubber mats.
- Non-prevention group: sows were stalled in standard crates.
The shoulder areas were photographed during the first two weeks of lactation.
The clinical pre-farrowing risk assessment was effective in determining which sows had a higher risk of developing shoulder ulcers. At-risk sows stalled in crates with rubber mats also had a significantly lower chance of developing shoulder ulcers compared to those in the non-preventative group. It was concluded that rubber mats had a statistically significant protective effect.
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