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Characteristics of organic pig farms in selected European countries and their possible influence on litter size and piglet mortality


Better knowledge of piglet losses around birth and during lactation, and the role of litter size, housing and management characteristics, should help to identify critical points and hence to improve the situation in organic pig farms. For this purpose, a project was initiated in five EU countries collecting interview data, measures of animal and housing characteristics and production records. This paper presents results regarding production characteristics from 82 herds. Among them, 42 farms were included in an analysis based on the production records. Based on sows’ housing system during the first 2 weeks after farrowing, farms were classified as “indoor” (n = 49) or “outdoor” (n = 33). For each group, a multiple correspondence analysis and subsequent hierarchical classification were carried out to identify distinct farm categories. In total, 30 variables from the questionnaires and measured characteristics were used after binary transformation when necessary. Three types of indoor farms and two types of outdoor farms were identified. Regarding litter size at birth and weaning, there was no clear difference between all types of indoor farms and one type of outdoor farms, whereas the second type of outdoor farms, that were more “extensive”, had lower performance. Production records showed a detrimental influence of high farm average litter size at birth on piglet mortality and that high-standard deviation in litter size may exacerbate this problem.

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The study was part of the ERA-net CORE Organic project COREPIG ( The authors wish to thank all national funders for their financial support. They would also like to thank Aude Bourgoin (INRA, France), Amke Goebel (Kassel University, Germany) and Sofia Wiberg (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden) for on-farm data collection, as well as all the farmers who participated to the present study.

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Correspondence to Armelle Prunier.

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Prunier, A., Dippel, S., Bochicchio, D. et al. Characteristics of organic pig farms in selected European countries and their possible influence on litter size and piglet mortality. Org. Agr. 4, 163–173 (2014).

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  • Organic pig
  • Litter size
  • Piglet mortality
  • Housing
  • Management