Relationships between mortality and respiratory health, medication usage, water disappearance, and climatic conditions in commercial weaning-to-finishing pigs

Mortality in pigs is of paramount economic importance to United States pig producers.  According to data compiled by MetaFarms SMS and Pork Checkoff in 2022, 21.2% of pigs die before reaching slaughter, and this statistic has increased, in general, over the last 5 years. Although only 6.8% of these losses are attributed to pigs in the wean-to-finish production phase, these pigs are more valuable due to added daily feed expenditure.  Thus, reduction of weaning-to-finishing pig mortality is necessary to improve sustainability and profitability of current pig production operations.  The objective of the current study was to identify health and climatic variables that are associated with mortality in commercial weaning-to-finishing pigs.  Daily counts of dead and euthanized pigs (N = 5,676) from six wean-to-finish farms within The Maschhoff’s production system were analyzed using Poisson and negative-binomial generalized linear mixed models for count data.  In general, negative-binomial models that included a random effect of placement group within site yielded the lowest AIC.  Lagged versions of respiratory health, medication usage, water disappearance, and climatic condition variables were included in the selected negative-binomial model.  Significant relationships were identified for each variable (P < 0.05).  Decreases in respiratory health corresponded to increases in mortality, while the relationship between medication usage and mortality was dependent on the antibiotic administered.  Moreover, decreases in water disappearance generally was associated with increases in mortality, especially for early lagged water disappearance variables (less than 3 days).  Results from this analysis are useful to producers when evaluating strategies to reduce mortality in weaning-to-finishing pigs.