The transition from an intra- to extrauterine existence is extremely challenging for the pig. This is evidenced by the fact that conservative estimates place intrapartum piglet death at between 5% and 10%. The main cause of this loss is the parturition process itself, with a long farrowing duration resulting in reduced oxygenation to the piglet via uterine contractions stretching, and in some cases, causing rupture of the umbilical cord. Sows that experience a long expulsive stage of parturition are likely compromised before the birth of the first piglet, and so any strategy to reduce stillbirth should be applied before this. Even in piglets born alive, 15% to 20% will have suffered asphyxiation because of a long cumulative farrowing duration. These individuals are significantly disadvantaged with regards to behavioural progression, colostrum intake, growth and survival extending past the lactation phase, and so require more labour and resources than littermates in order to make them viable. Given these immediate and longer-term impacts, identifying ways to correctly manage the sow before parturition leading to a reduction in farrowing duration should be a priority in order to maximise piglet performance.
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