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Hypothermia in pigs

By Dr Francois van Niekerk, Humansdorp Veterinay Clinic
Many new pig producers (and some established ones!) fail to understand the importance of a warm and dry (cosy) environment for pigs. One frequently sees suckling piglets and weaners in cold, wet conditions.  Common sense should tell us that such conditions are a recipe for diarrhea, pneumonia, poor growth and deaths.Furthermore, they have only 1.4% body fat at birth, so are poorly insulated against cold.  Their body temperature can decrease by 2 to 8oC during the first 20 minutes after birth because of poorly developed heat regulating mechanisms.
Minimum temperatures required by piglets are as follows:

  • 1 – 7kg 30ºC
  • 15kg    24ºC
  • 25kg    21ºC

These temperatures should not be allowed to vary, e.g. drop on cold nights. A common mistake made by beginners is to hose down pig pens daily with water, thinking that “cleanliness is next to Godliness”.  Unfortunately this leads to the cold, wet conditions we need  to avoid, especially in winter and when farrowing pens gets no sun.
Draught cause a wind chill effect and must be prevented. A dry creep area with adequate bedding (preferably wood shavings) and a cover (roof) to create a kennel effect and trap heat create a snug, cosy environment.  Add infra red lamps and these minimum requirements can be achieved even in cold winters.

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