Effect of radiant heat at the birth site in farrowing crates on hypothermia and behaviour in neonatal piglets

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It has been documented that floor heating of the farrowing area in loose housed sows improves survival of piglets significantly. However, today, the majority of farrowing pens are designed with crating of sows and slatted floor at the birth site. The aim of this study was to investigate whether providing radiant heat at the birth site to new-born piglets in pens with crated sows reduced hypothermia, time to first milk intake and growth of the piglets during the 1st week. Second parity Danish Landrace×Yorkshire sows (n=36) were randomly divided into two groups: Control (CG) and heat (HG). In the area behind the sow (zone 1), two radiant heat panels were mounted above the slatted floor in the HG. The farrowings were attended, and the heaters were turned on at birth of first piglet and turned off 12 h after. Birth time, time to leave zone 1, time to first contact with udder and time to first suckling were registered by direct observation. The piglet’s rectal temperature (RT) was measured 15, 30, 60, 120, 180, 240 min after birth and 12, 14 and 24 h after birth of first piglet. Piglets were weighed at birth, 24 and 48 h and 7 days after birth. Data were analysed in a mixed model in SAS. The drop in RT was lower in HG compared with CG (P=0.002), and the RT in HG remained higher than in CG from 30 to 240 min after birth (P<0.05), whereas no difference was found at 12 h after birth of first piglet (P=0.92). Piglets in HG stayed longer in zone 1 than those in CG (P=0.01), whereas time to reach udder (P=0.35) and to first suckling (P=0.56) did not differ. No difference in weight gain was found between piglets in HG and CG at 24 h (P=0.23), 48 h (P=0.28) and 7 days after birth (P=0.44). Birth weight had a positive effect on RT (P<0.001) and reduced time to leave zone 1 (P<0.01), reach udder (P<0.001) and time to first suckling (P<0.001). The results showed that radiant heating behind the sows reduced hypothermia in new-born piglets and indicate that providing heat during the first half hour after birth is important.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-134
Publication statusPublished - 2016

    Research areas

  • piglets, hypothermia, radiant heat, farrowing, mortality

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