Don’t try to cut costs when it comes to setting up housing for pigs. Production will suffer if basic requirements are not met, and profits will fall.
A piggery’s temperature management and disease control is critical. It is all about the comfort of the animals.
Pig producers must ensure that the temperature of each house corresponds with that of the pig’s “comfort zone”, otherwise the pig will suffer stress. This means that the animal’s optimal body temperature (for its age and stage of production) must be maintained. The pig’s body mustn’t work too hard to keep itself warm or cool.
Farmers should consult someone who is knowledgeable about piggery construction, before setting up any structures, he says. It won’t add significant costs to the operation setup.
Farmers should also consider installing the necessary technology for each house. In a short space of time a person who uses appropriate technology will have more efficient production.
The difficulty in a farrowing house is to maintain both the sow and the newly born piglets’ comfort zones. The optimal temperature for sows is between 18ºC and 21ºC, while piglets will be most comfortable in an environment of about 28ºC to 30ºC.
To manage this situation, farmers should provide a “lying area” for the piglets, with an additional heating source such as infrared lamps. From a management point of view, infrared works best because you can always see if the light is working or not.
Heated floors and bar heaters are also suitable for heating.
There should be sufficient airflow and fresh air in the building, but try to avoid drafts. Farmers can control airflow in the building by means of curtaining that can be operated manually. If one’s budget allows, install mechanical ventilation. To maintain a constant temperature, also insulate the roof with polystyrene or other insulation material.
Farmers should keep a close eye on hygiene in weaner houses. The best way to manage hygiene is by installing slatted floors. Farmers can make use of either plastic or concrete slats. Plastic slats are sometimes used for younger pigs so that they don’t get cold, but they are costly. Concrete slats can be used but tend to cause foot injuries.
As pigs start getting older, their temperature requirements will change.
Once piglets move to weaner houses, temperature adjustments must be made. They will need less heat as the piglets will start to produce their own heat to keep warm. The ideal temperature for just weaned pigs is about 28ºC; this reduces to 24ºC at four to five weeks after weaning.
Insulation in grower houses is very important, particularly during the summer months. The pigs are bigger and are more affected by heat than younger pigs. If a grower house is too hot, pigs will lose their appetite and will struggle to reach the desired market weight in the right time.
Concrete floors should be provided as they are easier to clean and drain, but they must be kept in a good condition as holes in the floor can cause injuries to pigs. Concrete slats will also help to prevent the incidence of disease in grower houses.
Pigs also shouldn’t get cold. If pigs are cold they will eat more and huddle together, which will slow their growth.
The ideal temperature for grower pigs is 20ºC to 22ºC.
BREEDING HERD HOUSING
If it tends to get hot in your area, extra care is needed to ensure that females keep a consistent temperature. This is critical for reproduction: if it is too hot, smaller litters will be produced and farrowing rates will be poor.
The interior housing temperature should also be evaluated in conjunction with relative humidity. For example, if the piggery is in an area with high relative humidity, a pig would be uncomfortable with a 28ºC interior temperature. If the area is not humid, 32ºC could be more manageable.
HOW TO IDENTIFY DISCOMFORT IN PIGS
If the pigs’ environment is too cold, they will shiver and crowd together. They will use the energy they gain from feeding to keep warm and this could negatively affect food conversion ratios. Temperature control in younger piglets is very important as their natural resistance and immune responses don’t perform well when they are cold.
If a pig is too hot, it will start panting, become irritable and keep well clear of other pigs. Another indicator is their dunging patterns. Pigs will dung on the floor and wallow in it if they are too hot.
Poor building design and stocking densities can also cause this. Always provide sufficient space for pigs of all ages. Pigs are more likely to fight with each other if they are overcrowded. Approximately one square metre for every 100 kg of live mass is advisable.
MORE HOUSING TIPS
- Poor ventilation increases the risk of pigs contracting respiratory diseases. Pig structures should be designed so that air circulates freely.
- The floor should have a slight slope (preferably towards the entrance) for better drainage.
- Housing must be sturdy to prevent pigs from escaping. Keep in mind that pigs are good diggers; therefore, the walls and fence must be sunk into the ground and strengthened at the base.
- Keep the pens clean always. Wash the soiled floor areas and clear solid waste daily.
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- This article first appeared in Farming SA.