Identification, Treatment and Prevention of Shoulder Lesions in Sows
Long periods of lying and poor body condition after farrowing leads to more shoulder lesions. Depending on the farm and sows, 10 to 50% of sows are affected by shoulder lesions. Lying laterally puts pressure on the scapula and can restrict blood flow resulting in local tissue damage. Bed sores or pressure ulcers in humans are comparable to shoulder lesions in sows. They are difficult to treat and often return at the next lactation. The first signs of the lesions are a reddening of the area that is damp and flies are often attracted to it. Then it will turn into an open ulcer, with extreme cases showing the underlying bone. A risk factor is sow body condition at farrowing, with <3 on a 5 point scale being at the highest risk since not enough fat covers the area. Another contributor is floor type, such as slatted floors as they provide less support compared to solid floors. Sows lay more in hotter temperatures so lesion formation increases as well. Larger litters being fed and increased weaning age may also lead to more shoulder ulcers. If a history of these sores is present in a sow, rubber floor mats in farrowing could be preventative. They are a heritable trait and future selective breeding programs may be beneficial in reducing ulcers. Not only do they cause pain, but they often lead to infection. Once they appear they should be cleaned with soap solution and an antibiotic spray. Monitor the herd for lesions daily. Softer flooring or straw bedding should be provided to those with lesions to improve comfort. Good body condition and the use of rubber mats are effective for reducing the prevalence of shoulder lesions.