There is more to a thermal environment for a pig than just temperature. Humidity in the air, moisture on the pig and surrounding surfaces, air drafts, and even flooring type, all impact the effective temperature that the piglet feels.

Maintaining proper effective temperatures promotes survivability and growth performance for pigs of all size but is especially critical for pre- and post-wean pigs in the first eight weeks of life. Newborn piglets have limited energy reserves, poor ability to regulate their own body temperature, and a high surface area-to-volume ratio.

Therefore, it is critical to provide a warm, dry microclimate area in the farrowing room. Active caretaker interventions such as drying with towels, cellulose-based desiccants, and placing piglets under heat sources or the udder, are helpful in reducing piglet body temperature drop immediately after birth. However, a predominate factor of pre-wean mortality is low piglet birthweight, suggesting that these interventions are most impactful for small piglets less than 3.5 lb at birth.

At weaning, piglets are subjected to stresses from transport, mixing with other pigs and the nutritional change from a primarily liquid diet to a cereal-based diet. With these stresses all occurring at once, providing the appropriate effective thermal environment after weaning is important to avoid adding thermal stress. Pigs lose up to one-third of their stored energy reserves after weaning due to these combined stresses and low feed intake, highlighting the importance of a proper thermal environment to avoid further depleting energy stores.

A warm environment with proper flooring and low air drafts is most helpful for providing a good start for young pigs. Pre-heating the environment, especially for concrete slats or cool ambient temperatures, can help improve post-wean performance.

Technologies are being developed to monitor pig physiological and behavioral patterns to estimate effective environmental temperatures. In research settings, thermal cameras have been used to monitor pig body temperatures. Digital cameras have been used to automatically detect pig respiration rate, which could be used as a proxy measurement for thermal comfort.

 

Read the full article here in the Journal of Animal Science:
Impact of Housing Environment and Management on Pre-/Post-Weaning Piglet Productivity

Farm Journal Pork | Brett C Ramirez, Morgan D Hayes, Isabella C F S Condotta, Suzanne M Leonard | July 20, 

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