Impressions of sow overgrown toes on U.S. farms: What animal-based factors are driving this?

  • Derek Henningsen (ISU)
  • Jennifer Bundy (Iowa State University)
  • Anna K. Johnson (Iowa State University)
  • Kenneth J Stalder (Iowa State University)
  • Marta Mainenti
  • Locke A. Karriker (Iowa State University)


The purpose of this study was to poll farm managers regarding the animal-based factors that may drive overgrown toes on-farm. All survey questions were self-reported by the participants. There was a total of 20 questions, which were separated into 6 different categories: farm demographics, flooring, sow characteristics, lameness, incidence of overgrown toes, and removal reason. The top 20 swine producing companies were chosen as potential survey participants by utilizing the Successful Farming Exclusive: Top 40 U.S. Pork Powerhouse List of 2020. Data will be presented descriptively (numbers and percentages). A total of 63 surveys (that encompassed 275,000 gilts and sows) were received. Most sow farms were located in Iowa and Illinois. Nearly 60% of sows were housed in barns 20-yrs or older and one third reported inventory between 4001 and 5000 head respectively. Approximately 63% of participants indicated that the gilt replacement source was internal. Two thirds had average sow parities between 3 and 4 with most sows being scored as a body condition score of 3 (ideal). Parities 3 and 4 were considered the time when overgrown toes were being observed in the breeding herd. Nine farms reported “dew claw problems” as their primary lameness reason. Twenty participants reported “foot lesions” as their primary lameness reason. Twenty-one farm managers reported “joint issues” as their primary lameness reason. Eight contributors reported “overgrown toes” as their primary lameness reason. Nearly 80% of the participants flagged gestation as where lameness was the most prevalent. When considering foot problems, pad lesions along with severely overgrown toes or dew claws were identified as the most common issues on-farm. The observed location of overgrown toes was mostly on the rear feet. Almost 75% noted that they engaged in some sort of “toe trimming”. Half reported sow age as the primary reason for removal, followed by performance and structural problems. In conclusion, this survey provides valuable information regarding current percentages of toe overgrowth in sow populations and highlights the importance of understanding what factors may drive overgrown toes and how they are being managed. 

Keywords: swine welfare, feet issues.

How to Cite:

Henningsen, D., Bundy, J., Johnson, A. K., Stalder, K. J., Mainenti, M. & Karriker, L. A., (2024) “Impressions of sow overgrown toes on U.S. farms: What animal-based factors are driving this?”, Iowa State University Animal Industry Report 20(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.31274/air.16939

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Published on
01 Apr 2024
Peer Reviewed
Public Domain