Skip to main content
ARS Home » Midwest Area » West Lafayette, Indiana » Livestock Behavior Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #372811

Research Project: Protecting the Welfare of Food Producing Animals

Location: Livestock Behavior Research

Title: The effect of enhancing the thermal environment of piglets on physiology, behavior and productivity

Author
item Lay, Jr, Donald - Don
item Enneking, Stacey
item MORELLO, G - The University Of Porto

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/18/2020
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Much neonatal mortality is related to the fact that newborn piglets can’t easily regulate their temperature and are prone to hypothermia. Our objective was to determine if increasing the heated area provided to piglets may improve their welfare. Sows (N = 27) were assigned to stalls using a traditional heat lamp for the piglets (Control), or stalls using 2, 0.4 x 2.4 m heated mats covering the entire length of the pig area (Heat). The mat temperature was maintained at approximately 39 °C until the 3rd d post-farrowing when they were replaced with a traditional heat lamp. At 1 d of age, piglets’ temperature was recorded, and blood samples were taken from 4 piglets per litter to measure cortisol, lactate, and glucose. Of these piglets, 2 were females and 2 males, 1 each weighing above average (thrifty) and 1 each below average (unthrifty). ADG of all piglets and mortality were recorded on day 3, when the heated mats were replaced with heat lamps, as well as at weaning. There were no treatment differences (P > 0.10) for cortisol (4.52 ± 0.22 ug/dL), glucose (102.84 ± 2.11 mg/dL), or lactate (2.42 ± 94.77 mmol/L). Unthrifty piglets had greater cortisol concentrations (5.45 ± 0.34 vs. 3.64 ± 0.24 ug/dL, P < 0.0001) and lower glucose (97.3 ± 3.06 vs. 108.37 ± 2.76 mg/dL; P < 0.0014) than thrifty. Females had lower glucose concentrations than males (98.22 ± 3.06 vs. 107.02 ± 2.85 mg/dL, P = 0.0102). ADG was not different (P > 0.10) on d 3 (0.12 ± 0.01 kg) or at weaning (0.24 ± 0.003 kg). There was no difference in body temperature between treatments (39.23 ± 0.03 °F, P > 0.10); however, unthrifty piglets tended (P < 0.08) to have a lower temperature compared to thrifty piglets (39.18 ± 0.04 vs. 39.27 ± 0.04). Day 3 mortality was lower in Heat crates than Control (0.04 ± 0.02 vs. 0.12 ± 0.03, P < 0.02); however, mortality at weaning did not differ (11 ± 0.02%, P > 0.10). In conclusion, increasing the warm area in farrowing crates with heated mats over the length of the piglet area may increase survivability while provided (as reflected by our lower d 3 mortality); however, this effect was not seen in the weaning mortality after mats were removed. Piglets may benefit further if given enhanced heating until weaning.

Technical Abstract: Much neonatal mortality is related to the fact that newborn piglets can’t easily regulate their temperature and are prone to hypothermia. Our objective was to determine if increasing the heated area provided to piglets may improve their welfare. Sows (N = 27) were assigned to stalls using a traditional heat lamp for the piglets (Control), or stalls using 2, 0.4 x 2.4 m heated mats covering the entire length of the pig area (Heat). The mat temperature was maintained at approximately 39 °C until the 3rd d post-farrowing when they were replaced with a traditional heat lamp. At 1 d of age, piglets’ temperature was recorded, and blood samples were taken from 4 piglets per litter to measure cortisol, lactate, and glucose. Of these piglets, 2 were females and 2 males, 1 each weighing above average (thrifty) and 1 each below average (unthrifty). ADG of all piglets and mortality were recorded on day 3, when the heated mats were replaced with heat lamps, as well as at weaning. There were no treatment differences (P > 0.10) for cortisol (4.52 ± 0.22 ug/dL), glucose (102.84 ± 2.11 mg/dL), or lactate (2.42 ± 94.77 mmol/L). Unthrifty piglets had greater cortisol concentrations (5.45 ± 0.34 vs. 3.64 ± 0.24 ug/dL, P < 0.0001) and lower glucose (97.3 ± 3.06 vs. 108.37 ± 2.76 mg/dL; P < 0.0014) than thrifty. Females had lower glucose concentrations than males (98.22 ± 3.06 vs. 107.02 ± 2.85 mg/dL, P = 0.0102). ADG was not different (P > 0.10) on d 3 (0.12 ± 0.01 kg) or at weaning (0.24 ± 0.003 kg). There was no difference in body temperature between treatments (39.23 ± 0.03 °F, P > 0.10); however, unthrifty piglets tended (P < 0.08) to have a lower temperature compared to thrifty piglets (39.18 ± 0.04 vs. 39.27 ± 0.04). Day 3 mortality was lower in Heat crates than Control (0.04 ± 0.02 vs. 0.12 ± 0.03, P < 0.02); however, mortality at weaning did not differ (11 ± 0.02%, P > 0.10). In conclusion, increasing the warm area in farrowing crates with heated mats over the length of the piglet area may increase survivability while provided (as reflected by our lower d 3 mortality); however, this effect was not seen in the weaning mortality after mats were removed. Piglets may benefit further if given enhanced heating until weaning.