Having the proper environment in your farrowing house is extremely important. It is just as important as lining your sow up to the right boar and the nutrition they will receive throughout their life. You want it to be as comfortable as it can be for both the sow and baby pigs. This way you are getting the maximum performance out of the sow and the babies. It doesn’t matter whether you just have a few sows or you have over 100, sow and baby pig comfort and care is our number priority in the farrowing house.
Temperature is tricky when it comes to the farrowing house. This is because the sow and piglets each have a different ideal temperature. Sows like for it be anywhere from 60 to 65 degrees. Baby pigs like it to be at least 85 degrees during the first 3 days of their life. After that they like is around 80 degrees or so.
To do this, we usually keep the room somewhere between 72 and 74 degrees. We then supplement heat to the baby pigs by heat lamps. For the temperature in the room, we simply use an LB White type of heater. This way the sows are not getting too hot but it is still warm environment for the baby pigs.
Heat Lamps or Heated Mats
Having a supplemental heat for baby pigs is very important. This way they get under the light and stay warm. Make sure you set your heat lamp up in a dry, draft free area that is away from mom. We normally put a mat down under the heat lamp to give them something to lie on as well. Our farrowing crates are slatted, however if you farrow on concrete or dirt, the mat will also be helpful so they do not get a chill from the floor.
If you use a heated mat or pad in your farrowing pen, then you don’t necessarily need a heat lamp. One of the two makes a huge difference for the baby pigs.
When hanging your heat lamp, you need to make sure you have it hung up in an area that none of the pigs or the sow can reach it. Also it needs to be high enough off the ground that the baby pigs cannot reach it. We do not want the heat lamp to turn into a fire hazard. Trust me; if they can reach the cord or heat lamp, they will tear it down. Safety is always a major concern with these!
Deciding if the temperature is right in your farrowing house
Your pigs will tell you if your farrowing house is too cold or too warm. Make sure you watch them for signs, that way you can adjust your temperature settings.
If the heat lamp is too hot for baby pigs, you will notice they are not directly lying underneath the heat lamp. They will be lying off to the side of the heat lamp. If this is happening to you there are three things you can do. 1) Raise the heat lamp higher away for the floor. 2) Change to a lower wattage bulb. 3) Lower the temperature in the room. As pigs get older, sometimes we will take out the actual heat bulb and put in a standard 60 or 100 watt light bulb. It still gives off warm heat, but it is not as intense.
If it is too cold in your farrowing house, you will notice that the baby pigs are piling up on each other to stay warm. Some piling is common especially in younger pigs, but usually piling pigs means cold pigs. Turning the temperature of the room up a degree or lowering the heat lamp will normally solve the problem.
Your pigs need good air quality to thrive and grow. Farrowing houses are known to be dusty. This is usually because the sow’s feed tends to be dusty. Simply wiping down farrowing crates or pens is one way to help keep the dust down. Another way to keep dust down is to raise the fat content in the feed. Talk to your feed provider for a lactation feed diet if this is a problem for you.
Proper ventilation is vital. If you are farrowing in an enclosed room, you will need some kind of ventilation system. A small fan or window will work wonders. Just getting air flow through the room can make a big difference. The tricky part comes in not creating a draft on the baby pigs and not blowing too much hot air out the window.
Most people think that ventilation is just important when it is hot outside, however it is just as important in the winter months as well. Our fans and furnace are both connected to a control panel. We have our room set to stay between 72 and 74 degrees. If the temperature would fall below 72 degrees, the furnace will turn on. We then have the fans set up if the room would reach a certain temp, the fan will turn on. If they both are running at the same time, then something has terribly gone wrong. This also keeps the air in the room from getting stagnate and stale smelling. Pigs like fresh air just like you. If you go into the room and it feels stuffy then you need to adjust some things. However controlling the temperature and air in the farrowing house is a lot easier in the colder month’s verses the summer months.
Summer months are trickier because it is warmer outside. If you are like us and live in an area with humidity, then you have that to deal with as well. You will need a way to cool down the room and knock the humidity. We have what we call a cool cell to keep our sows cool. A cool cell is a water drip system. On end of the barn we have the cool cell unit, then there are fans on the opposite side of the building. The fans pull cool air through the cool cell and this cools the room down. This is a very nice system, just not always the most practical if you are farrowing out a few sows at a time. If you can keep air moving through the room, it will work wonders. We know people who drip systems above their sows as well. Even having a fan blowing on each sow is helpful during this time of the year. Our goal is for the sow to be comfortable and not too hot so she can produce milk to feed her babies.
A clean farrowing house is always a happier farrowing house! We simple as this seems, it is very important. Cleaning out from behind the sow and keeping the pen dry will help the babies develop to their full potential.
It is most important that your pigs are comfortable! You have to pay attention to it every day. Every farrowing room is different, so you need to develop a plan that works best for you and your sow herd. Remember 5 degrees of temperature change and a shovel can be just as helpful as an antibiotic or vaccine.