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4 minute read

Trimming Pig Hooves Can Prevent Lameness in Sows

Sow claw after trimming
Dr. Zachary Rambo

Global RNS Species Leader – Swine
Zinpro Corporation

Today, with more sows moving into group housing where they are being asked to travel greater distances in order to access their feed and water on a regular basis, swine hoof health has become a key concern that can impact their locomotion, productivity and overall wellness.

If a sow’s claws become too long, it can cause them to have pain and other issues, such as inflammation, poor locomotion and lameness that will make that sow less willing to move. When a sow is lame, it leads to lower feed intake (especially during lactation), which decreases reproductive performance and, ultimately, can lead to early exit from the herd. Trimming pig hooves and keeping their claws the right length can help prevent those issues and ensure they are getting to the feeder, helping enhance productivity and overall animal wellness and performance.

What is Swine Hoof Trimming?

The purpose of hoof trimming is to restore normal claw conformation and weight distribution and to help reduce the incidence of sow lameness caused by unequal weight bearing on overgrown toes and dew claws. Swine hoof trimming focuses on three objectives:

  • Return the claw to its normal length and shape by removing overgrowth
  • Balance weight distribution within and between the claws
  • Correctively trim excessive heel overgrowth and erosion.

When trimming pig hooves, a hoof trimmer will need to be sure the animal is adequately restrained and posing minimal opportunity of inflicting injury to itself or the trimmer. The Feet First® Chute, developed by Zinpro, provides a safe, low-stress way to easily lift sows and gilts to inspect and trim their claws. Once the animal is positioned in the chute, a hoof trimmer can inspect and trim the claw horns and dew claws, balance the soles and heels and, finally, straighten the dorsal wall of each claw. Learn more by watching the How To: Step-by-Step Guide to Pig Hoof Trimming to Help Prevent Lameness video.

Is Trimming Pig Hooves Worth It?

Along with feeding performance trace minerals, like Availa®Sow, hoof trimming is a component of the Feet First Swine Lameness Prevention program which focuses on maintaining healthy sow hooves. The Feet First Program, spear-headed by Zinpro, focuses on swine wellness and helping to improve the efficiency of pork production through the identification and prevention of lameness.

With swine hoof trimming, there is a tremendous opportunity to enhance your bottom line, but how do you know if trimming pig hooves is going to be worth the investment?

It’s important to take into consideration the prevalence of animals with long claws in a pork operation. The more sows and gilts with long claws there are on a pork operation, the greater the opportunity is to increase or improve productivity by trimming pig hooves. If 1-to-2 percent of the sows and gilts in an operation have long claws, there is little room for improvement, but if 8-to-10 percent of the sows and gilts in an operation have long claws, there is going to be much greater room for improvement.

Research shows that by the second year and beyond, trimming pig hooves yields an ROI of about 2.5-to-1.

Performance Trace Minerals Help Reduce Incidence of Claw Lesions

­­Trimming pig hooves is a secondary option to incorporating Availa-Sow into swine nutrition programs. Availa-Sow contains a unique combination of zinc, manganese and copper, specifically formulated to optimize foot health and reproductive performance of sows, gilts and boars. In research performed by Zinpro,
Availa-Sow has shown reduced frequency and severity of claw lesions in sows and a significantly reduced number of sows that have subclinical lameness. In addition, supplementing diets with performance trace minerals help mitigate inflammation associated with lameness in sows resulting in greater milk production and weaning weights.

Feet First Swine Lameness Prevention Program

The Feet First Swine Lameness Prevention program is designed to raise awareness of lameness on pork operations and its impact on sow wellness and productivity. Availa-Sow and trimming pig hooves are both components of the Feet First program. The program also features a locomotion scoring system, information on claw lesion identification, claw trimming fundamentals and the Feet First Chute, which provides a safe, low-stress way to easily lift sows and gilts to inspect and trim their hooves.

To learn more about the Feet First Swine Lameness Prevention program, including trimming pig hooves, identifying claw lesions and including Availa-Sow in your swine nutrition program, contact a Zinpro representative.