Avoiding Hypothermia in Neonatal Pigs: Effect of Duration of Floor Heating at Different Room Temperatures

Increasing the room temperature to 25°C reduced hypothermia and the risk of pigs dying before colostrum intake, according to new research on loose-housed sows in Denmark. Floor heating for 48 hours resulted in higher piglet mortality - mainly as the result of crushing by the sow - than floor heating for 12 hours in this experiment.
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The effect of different farrowing room temperatures (15, 20 or 25°C), combined with floor heating at the birth site, on the post-natal rectal temperature of pigs, use of creep area and latency to first colostrum uptake was investigated with 61 litters born by loose-housed sows. The research was carried out by Lene Pedersen and colleagues at the University of Aarhus in Denmark and published in Journal of Animal Science.

Pig rectal temperature was measured at birth, as well as at 0.25, 0.5, 1, 1.5, 2, 3, 4, 12, 24 and 48 hours after birth.

The drop in rectal temperature from birth to 0.5 hours after birth was less (P<0.05) at room temperature of 25°C than at 20 and 15°C. Minimum rectal temperature was less (P<0.001) at 15°C than either 20 or 25°C, and the time it took for rectal temperature to increase above 37°C was longer (P<0.05) when room temperatures was 15°C than 20 and 25°C.

Rectal temperatures at 24 hours (P<0.001) and 48 hours (P<0.05) postpartum were also lower at room temperature of 15°C than 20 and 25°C.

Duration of floor heating (12 or 48 hours) did not influence (P>0.28) the rectal temperature at 24 or 48 hours after birth.

More pigs used the creep area 12 to 60 hours after birth of the first pig at a room temperature of 15°C with 12 hours floor heating than with all other treatments. During the latter part of this period, more pigs stayed in the creep area also at 20°C with 12 hours floor heating. After 60 hours, more pigs (P<0.01) used the creep area at low than at high room temperatures (15°C > 20°C > 25°C).

Odds ratio of pigs dying before they had suckled was 6.8 times greater (P=0.03) at 15 than 25°C (95 per cent CI of 1.3 to 35.5), whereas the odds ratio of dying during the first seven days was 1.6 greater (P=0.05) for 48 versus 12 hours of floor heating (95 per cent CI of 1.0 to 2.57), mainly due to more pigs being crushed.

The Aarhus researchers concluded that floor heating for 48 hours was no more favourable than 12 hours for pigs because the risk of hypothermia was equal in the two treatments; the risk of dying increased with the longer floor heating duration. Increasing the room temperature to 25°C reduced hypothermia and the risk of pigs dying before colostrum intake, added Pedersen and her colleagues.


Pedersen L.J., J. Malmkvist, T. Kammersgaard and E. Jørgensen. 2012. Avoiding hypothermia in neonatal pigs: the effect of duration of floor heating at different room temperatures. Published online before print. J. Anim. Sci. 16 October 2012 jas.2011-4534. doi: 10.2527/jas.2011-4534

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November 2012
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