Microclimates Key to Successful Piglet Weaning
Baby farm animals are typically born in the spring, including piglets. During spring, days become longer, and temperatures are increasingly warmer. Warmer outdoor temperatures can pose a risk if it leads to overheating of indoor facilities where the livestock is housed. Piglets are typically weaned around a month after birth. They are most vulnerable in the time period from birth to weaning. The survival rate is influenced by many factors with the micro-environment being a major one. Monitoring and managing microclimates can make the transition easier for the sow, increase litter survival rates, and help piglets grow and thrive.
What is a Microclimate?
Microclimates and micro-environments refer to the immediate, onsite conditions in given space. Microclimates are limited to a specific geographical area, functioning as a climate inside of a larger climate. It’s found in a small and local area such as a forest floor or a mountain valley.
Microclimates have variations of elements such as temperature and humidity in comparison to the surrounding climate. This diagram from the United States Department of Agriculture shows how microclimates differ within one localized area.
What Microclimate Encourages Piglet Weaning?
For livestock, microclimatic and microenvironment conditions can vary significantly within the same housing facility – and even from individual crates depending on a variety of factors.
"There have been reports that animals in the same environmentally controlled building do not always experience the same ambient conditions. Differences in ambient conditions could explain, at least partially, the substantial variation in pre-wean mortality in farrowing facilities."
--Microenvironments in Swine Farrowing Rooms: The Thermal, Lighting, and Acoustic Environments of Sows and Piglets, Sci. agric. (Piracicaba, Braz.) vol.75 no.1 Piracicaba Jan./Feb. 2018
According to National Hog Farmer, maintaining the ideal microclimate is key to successful piglet weaning and growth. As you set up your microclimate, the end goal is to keep the temperature warm enough to keep the piglets active.
"[Piglets] are especially susceptible to cold stress due to a lack of coat hair, a large surface area to body weight ratio, lack of suitable energy reserves and poor body thermostability at birth.
Welfare of Pigs in the Farrowing Environment Iowa State University. Animal Science Publication 2009
Radiant heat is often used in creating the necessary microclimate for both piglets and sow. Forced air can warm the room between 75 to 80 degrees F while a radiant heat maintains the correct temperature at pig level.
As important as is to prevent cold stress in piglets, heat stress can also be fatal to both the sow and piglets. Keeping sows and piglets within their appropriate thermal comfort zones is not always easy – they have different requirements and tolerance levels. Unknown factors such as drafts or inconsistent air flow in certain areas can have significant effects on microclimate temperature and humidity readings. That is why it’s crucial to regularly monitor environmental conditions to ensure that they remain within recommended thresholds.
How do You Track Microclimates?
The Kestrel Agriculture line gives you accurate, micro-climate weather data you can rely on to make critical management decisions to increase yield, reduce losses, manage animal care and boost profit across your entire agriculture or ranch operation.
Kestrel Agriculture Meters allow you to easily and accurately track elements such as:
- Temperature Humidity Index (THI)
- Heat Stress Index
- Dew Point Temperature
- Relative Humidity
- Air Flow
- Wind Speed and Direction
- Barometric Pressure
- Wind Chill
- And more!
One of the best models for monitoring and tracking piglet microclimates is the AG Livestock DROP D2. This is a highly portable and rugged data logger that makes it easy to track temperature variations right from your smart phone. Simply hang inside the crate or wherever livestock is housed, and access current conditions and historical readings with your iOS or Android device. Additionally, the multiple built-in environmental measurements mean your DROP D2AG can also be used to monitor conditions in many other agricultural applications including hay and feed storage areas and greenhouses.
Monitoring the temperature-humidity index (THI) provides a more complete assessment of the actual conditions that the livestock is experiencing. THI measures the combined effects of onsite temperature and relative humidity. Studies have shown that higher temperatures and THI values during farrowing [birthing process] resulted in a reduced number of liveborn piglets.
"Temperature and THI affected the reproductive performance of the sows and the survival of the piglets in different ways. While increased climatic values at the time of breeding positively affected the total number of piglets born, increased values at the time of farrowing had negative impacts on the reproductive performance of the sows. Piglets benefited from higher temperature and THI values after farrowing."
--Climatic Effects on Sow fertility and Piglet Survival Under Influence of a Moderate Climate,Georg August University, Justus Liebig University. Animal, International Journal of Animal Bioscience 2014
Learn more about livestock environmental monitoring with the Kestrel Agriculture line of meter and data loggers.