Knowledge of the extent of lameness within a herd is a first step to understanding the problem, from which solutions can be developed. Culling and mortality records are a useful start, but on-farm monitoring of sows is more important as it will contribute to earlier detection of lameness which is key to minimizing losses. Currently, the best method for practical on farm monitoring of lameness is to observe sows as they walk. Timely, consistent observation of sows should become part of the regular management routine to detect locomotion problems as they develop. As a subjective method, staff should be given training to develop consistency, and using a simple scale (e.g. 0-3) can be easier.
Any time that sows are moved around the barn provides an opportunity to observe sow locomotion. Observing sows moving from gestation into farrowing is believed to be a useful time, as lameness may become more pronounced as the sow is heavier. Further observation as the sow is moved to breeding is also beneficial to detect any problems which have developed in farrowing, and indicate the need for review of the sow prior to breeding. Group housing of sows provides plenty of opportunity to observe sows’ locomotion throughout gestation. Close observation of sows after mixing should be performed to ensure no lameness has developed from injury after fighting. Records of sow locomotion score and injury should be kept, similar to production records, and these can help to show patterns in lameness development within the herd.