Animal Science Department


Date of this Version

January 2005


Published in 2005 Nebraska Swine Report, compiled by Duane Reese; University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension EC 05-219-A. Prepared by the staff in Animal Science and cooperating Departments for use in Extension, Teaching and Research programs. Cooperative Extension Division, Agricultural Research Division, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


A literature review was conducted on shoulder ulcers in sows. Shoulder ulcers are caused by pressure that the shoulder blade exerts against tissues that overlie it. Those issues lose blood supply and die. Because the pressure is directed outward, tissue damage occurs before the ulcer is evident on the skin surface. Ulcer prevalence is highly variable; 0 to more than 20% of the sows in 218 herds evaluated had shoulder ulcers. Ulcers usually develop during late gestation and early lactation and many heal shortly after weaning. Numerous risk factors for developing shoulder ulcers have been identified. Inactivity and thin sow body condition seem to be the most important ulcer risk factors. Thus, farrowing caretakers may be able to prevent ulcers by carefully monitoring each sow’s lying behavior and attempting to fix any problem that restricts movement. Checking the gestation and lactation feeding programs to ensure that sows enter the farrowing area in proper body condition also may prevent ulcers. Experience from Denmark indicates a pad fixed to the shoulder of sows at the first sign of redness in the skin may prevent ulcers too. Sows starting to develop an ulcer benefit from treatment of underlying issues that cause inactivity, daily application of a topical disinfectant, early weaning and movement to a hospital pen, or a rubber mat to lie on in the farrowing crate. Close observation and appropriate care of sows especially around the time of farrowing should keep the incidence of shoulder ulcers low in the pork industry.