Pigs are naked, they have little hair and only some fat to keep them warm. So put yourselves in their position, after all without clothes we are similarly insulated (no comments on individual hairiness or personal P2 levels please!). Basically would you be comfortable (thermally!) in the pig housing without any clothing on to trap your body heat? If the answer is no, you might need to address the building management.
So what temperature should we be keeping our pigs at?
Well the most important temperature to consider is that of the laying area:
7kg pig around 28°C (83°F)
15kg pig around 24°C (75°F)
30kg pig around 22°C (72°F)
50kg – finish around 20°C (68°F)
Now that’s not the air temperature of the entire building, but the microclimate around the laying area. For example the presence of other pigs, bedding etc. will make the laying area warmer than the general air temperature.
So why is temperature so important?
Cold environments lead to two things:
1. Lower growth rates
If pigs are cold they start to use energy to keep themselves warm, rather than using energy to grow; the temperature when this occurs is called the lower critical temperature (LCT). A pig loses approximately 10-12g of liveweight gain per day for every degree the temperature is below its LCT. For example 1000 pigs, wean to finish over 18 weeks, at just 1°C below their LCT could miss out on more than 1500kg of growth!
2. Increased susceptibility to disease
There are several diseases which are triggered by cold environments including
Streptococcus suis (often referred to as meningitis)
All of these diseases can cause significant mortality levels, particularly in younger pigs.
How do we know if they are warm enough?
Thermometers in laying areas are useful, but the pigs’ behaviour should be enough to tell you: If they are laying side by side they are probably at a comfortable temperature, but if they are laying on top of one another then the conditions are too cold for them.
How can we increase the temperature of the laying area?
There are many options, and obviously these are dependent on building type and design.
Ensure climate controlled buildings are set at the correct temperature for the size of pig.
Building maintenance – ensure vents, flaps, fans are all working appropriately and that there are no drafts entering the building.
Insulate walls, especially those adjacent to the intended laying area.
Provide kennelling – this could be a wooden ceiling, a bale structure, or even a tarpaulin type material suspended over the laying area. Anything to make a smaller space for the pigs to warm up to make a comfortable microclimate.
Provide curtains at the front of kennelling to trap the heat in.
Provide extra bedding if on solid flooring.
Increase stocking of pens whilst pigs are small and need to be warmer (assuming assurance requirements for space, feeders, and drinkers are still met).
Some of these things may be costly in labour, or money, but those costs will be outweighed by the improved health, mortality levels and growth that you achieve by keeping your pigs toasty, productive and happy!
For further information please contact Zoetis UK Limited, Walton Oaks, Dorking Road, Tadworth, Surrey KT20 7NS. www.zoetis.co.uk Customer Support: 0845 300 8034. Use medicines responsibly (www.noah.co.uk/responsible). Date of preparation: January 2018. AH047/18
Laura graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in 2009; after her veterinary degree she went to the University of Nottingham to undertake a PhD specialising in enteric disease of the young pig. After being awarded her PhD Laura spent a very enjoyable three years in a specialist pig practice in the South West of England. She then took the leap into Industry and joined the Zoetis pig team in September 2016.
She decided on specialising in pigs before qualifying as a vet and has not looked back since; she is very passionate about welfare and the success of British Pig Farming!
In her free time Laura is also passionate about good food and wine, fortunately the eating and drinking is balanced out by the love of walking, trips to the gym and Sunday morning runs.