Using thermal imaging as a method of investigating thermal thresholds in finishing pigs

Recent findings have revealed that modern pigs generate more heat than previously thought, leading to a reconsideration of their thermal requirements. A study investigated this phenomenon by using surface temperatures as a gauge for evaluating the heat tolerance of growing pigs. Thermal images were captured across a range of temperatures, covering both group-penned and individual pigs.

The study involved 160 group-penned pigs and 20 individual pigs, with weights ranging between 26,9 kg and 62,2 kg. Thermal images were taken on selected days spanning temperatures between 21,3 °C and 36,6 °C. By analysing these images, researchers discerned average and extreme temperatures for individual and group-penned pigs, respectively. Notably, the surrounding ambient temperature influenced surface temperatures, leading to the development of response equations.

Breakpoint analysis highlighted a threshold, estimated to be between 17,4 °C and 23,2 °C, possibly indicating the upper limit of the pigs’ thermal comfort range. This study proposes the use of thermal images as a viable method to gauge pigs’ thermal needs. However, further research is required to validate the identified thresholds and refine our understanding of pigs’ thermal preferences.

Click here to access the research paper by Brown-Brandl et al. as published in Biosystems Engineering by ScienceDirect.

The South African Pork Producers’ Organisation (SAPPO) coordinates industry interventions and collaboratively manages risks in the value chain to enable the sustainability and profitability of pork producers in South Africa.