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Electrocution

Background and history

Electrocution of sows and litters occurs sometimes in farrowing houses where electricity is used for heating. Farrowing crates are often connected together throughout the house by various pieces of metal and because of this several animals maybe killed - including piglets when they make contact with the sow.

Note - If you go into your farrowing house and find large numbers of dead animals STOP and THINK ELECTROCUTION or TOXIC GASES, and DON'T ENTER.

Clinical signs

A large number of animals suddenly found dead in one house should immediately raise a suspicion of electrocution.

The skin will often be burned at the points where it has made contact with the metal, although piglets in contact with the sow may show no external signs. Blood and froth are commonly seen around the nostrils and mouth. Bones may fracture.

  • A variable number of animals are suddenly found dead in one house.
  • The sows' skin will often be burned or inflamed where it contacted the metal.
  • Blood and froth are commonly seen around the nostrils and mouth.
  • Bones may be fractured.
  • Paralysis in surviving pigs.

Diagnosis

Post-mortem examinations are necessary to differentiate electrocution from other causes of sudden death although the circumstances are almost diagnostic. Veterinary certification is usually required for insurance claims.

Causes

  • Faulty electricity lines and switches. Trip out switches should be provided in the electricity circuits.
  • A common cause however is damage by sows that escape from farrowing crates.

Prevention

  • Trip out switches should be provided in the electricity circuits and the electricity lines and switches well maintained.
  • A common cause however is damage by sows that escape from farrowing crates. Make sure that gates into crates are secure.

Treatment

Most animals will be found dead after electrocution. Some may be found with posterior paralysis. Injured pigs should be culled.