Economic feasibility of interventions targeted at decreasing piglet perinatal and pre-weaning mortality across European countries

Anna H. Stygar*, Ilias Chantziaras, Dominiek Maes, Vivi Aarestrup Moustsen, Dimitri De Meyer, Hélène Quesnel, Ilias Kyriazakis, Jarkko K. Niemi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Background: Piglet perinatal and pre-weaning mortality is a welfare problem causing economic losses in pig production. In this study, the effects of housing and management interventions on the economic result of sow enterprises representing six European countries (Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, The Netherlands and Spain) were tested. Interventions concerned: (1) installing mechanical ventilation, (2) re-designing of the gestation unit, (3) drying and warming newborn piglets, (4) providing enrichment for gestating sows, including high-fiber dietary supplementation and point-source objects, and (5) music provision and backscratching of sows in the farrowing unit. A bio-economic model was used to determine the effects of interventions on economic outcomes during the nursery phase and to calculate a maximum cost of 1%-point reduction in perinatal and pre-weaning mortality, irrespective of the intervention type. Biological parameters were set according to previous observational and experimental studies. Interventions 1–4 were expected to decrease perinatal mortality, defined as stillbirths and deaths occurring within the first 48 h of postnatal life. Intervention 5 was expected to decrease pre-weaning mortality. Interventions increased fixed (1–3) and variable costs (3–5). We hypothesized that housing and management interventions would have a positive economic effect. Results: Piglet mortality can be decreased in various ways. Interventions concerning ventilation and re-designing of the gestation unit (1 and 2) were the most beneficial in countries with low housing costs and high perinatal mortality. Drying and warming newborn piglets (3) resulted in varying economic results, with the highest increase in profits obtained in a country with low labor costs and high litter size. Interventions providing sows with enrichment and human–animal interaction (4 and 5) were effective across varying conditions. Regardless of intervention type, policies aiming at 1%-point reduction in perinatal and pre-weaning mortality could cost from €0.2 to €0.5 (average €0.4) and from €0.4 to €0.5 (average €0.5) per piglet, respectively, depending on productions conditions. Conclusions: To decrease piglet mortality, farmers should consider low input interventions, such as those targeting appropriate behavior. Our results suggest that providing enrichment or increasing human–animal interaction pays off and brings positive economic result even when piglet mortality is marginally reduced.

Original languageEnglish
Article number22
Number of pages13
JournalPorcine Health Management
Issue number1
Early online date01 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was conducted under the PROHEALTH project. PROHEALTH received funding from the European Union 7th Framework Programme for Research, Technological development and Demonstration under grant agreement number 613574. JN and AS have received funding from Oiva Kuusisto säätiö.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Behavior
  • Housing
  • Human–animal interaction
  • Neonatal mortality
  • Optimization
  • Stillbirth
  • Welfare

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Animals
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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