Hospital pen design

The hospital pen should be the most comfortable warm area on the farm with easy access to feed and water because the environmental requirements of the sick pig are exacting.
calendar icon 9 November 2018
clock icon 3 minute read

For example the newly-weaned pig affected with malabsorption will have lost most of its body fat and could require an effective temperature of 30ºC (95ºF). Hospital pens should cater for three groups of pigs: those in the immediate post-weaned period, those in the growing and finishing period, and sows. In the weaning and the growing period there should be two types: one to handle the acutely ill pigs and the second to hold the recovered pigs.

This is similar to the straw-based weaner accommodation shown in the figure below, only smaller. It consists of an inner well heated chamber with strip curtains separated from a cooler outer section. In some designs the floor is heated as well and this provides an excellent environment. The complete pen is deep bedded in at least 300mm of straw or other bedding so that the disadvantaged pig can select its required environment. This is vital for the recovery of those pigs who have lost body fat. The walls and roof of the accommodation should be insulated with 100-150mm of foam or fibre glass depending on the temperature of the external environment. Provision should be made for a separate water tank leading to a water bowl so that medication can be applied as necessary. Feed should be readily accessible by open dishes in the case of weaners and well-sited hoppers in the case of growing pigs. The sow accommodation should provide a good grip for the feet on the floor particularly for those sows that are lame (leg weakness). The stocking densities should range from 0.2m2 per pig for weaners through to 3m2 for the sow.

Management features of the sick pen

  • For the acutely ill pigs, it should contain no more than 5 or 6 pigs.
  • Pigs should be examined twice daily and assessed.
  • The pen should be well lit and bedded.
  • There should be no draughts and it should be warm.
  • One person should be appointed responsible for these pens.
  • Medication and electrolytes should be administered daily and recorded.
  • There should be easy access to the pens for observation.
  • Water should be available in a bowl at an accessible height for the smallest pig.

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