Mortality in neonates has always represented significant economic wastage and slow progress has been made in the understanding of the factors influencing the probability of survival or death. There is also increasing pressure in the animal agriculture sphere to pursue improved welfare and in the situation where neonatal deaths are a high proportion of the liveborn offspring, then this becomes not only an economic concern but also a welfare issue. This paper highlights principal problems within the neonatal area in order to introduce the ensuing text dealing with specific technical challenges.
The magnitude of loss for different species including humans is given and the factors affecting mortalities are discussed. The major components include: human factors, pathogenic agents, immunological factors, temperature and thermoregulation, nutrition, behaviour and physical factors.
Although single factors are often ascribed as the cause of death, the reality is that there are usually multifactorial components involved which interact and contribute to the final mortality of the individual.
The approach to the practical management of neonates varies widely between the different animal industries and the techniques deployed depend on relative economic values. In human health care every available resource is used to ensure very high survival rates because of the incalculable value of each individual delivered. With farm animals the use of resources is at a much lower level and survival rates are lower. It ought to be possible in animal agriculture to adopt some of the methods used in the medical profession to assess high risk situations and to divert resources appropriately.