The Finer Details-Farrowing Room Management

Farrowing Room Management is a procedure that is unique to the people doing the work in the farrowing room. As people, we all have our own ways of doing things, which in our own minds are absolutely correct. The fortunate few among us who are blessed with the ability to question why and seek better methods are often frustrated by the beliefs or the rules or those around them. It is a long established fact that most deaths of newborn piglets occur in the first 48 hours of life. The question of why this occurs and possible actions to be taken is an area where progress can be made.

Flooring design and construction is one area that has seen significant improvement. Any flooring material that may trap any part of a newborn animal or that is too slippery to allow the newborn to walk represents a hazard. The compounding problem is that significant sized openings are required to allow sow manure to pass through the flooring material. A number of solutions have been tried and one of the more successful has been a light weight corrugated cardboard purchased in rolls. Producers have tried everything from newspaper to cardboard boxes. The material is simply placed under the sow at the rear of the farrowing crates to cover any large floor openings for the 24 to 48 hour period during and after farrowing. It is then removed and disposed of. It appears that by 48 hours of age, young animals have developed walking and balance skills to move around the pen without getting caught or slipping.

The use of heating pads on the floors has become an industry standard, both for energy conservation and providing an area of draft-free solid flooring. The question is; is the pad working correctly, that is, is the entire surface a uniform temperature? Is the temperature close to the 35° to 37°C (95° to 98°F) that is recommended for newborn animals? A hand held remote sensing thermometer does a wonderful job of checking these out in a fast efficient manner.

The old standby heat lamps should also be used in the first 24 hours after farrowing. It appears that getting the newborn animal dried off and free from chilling is a major accomplishment. Some producers have used one heat lamp on each side of the sow and if necessary two heat lamps for the first 24 hours.

An alternative strategy where labour is available is to dry each newborn by hand and use a drying powder product that is available. In hot weather, smaller size bulbs can be used in the heat lamps and for a shorter time. The object is to get the newborn animal dried and resting in an area away from the sow.

The question of room air temperature is one which has generated a lot of thought, research and discussion. Typically a sow would prefer a temperature of around 22°C or 72°F. This is almost a requirement to encourage feed consumption and milk production past farrowing. It is, however, too low for maximum newborn performance. There is a very fine balance of adjustments to be made in balancing the temperature requirements of the two groups of animals. Further on this point, air movement and airflow patterns are extremely important. This topic includes location and adjustment of thermostats to regulate air flow in a way that is not disturbing to the animals.

There are many questions to be asked and as technologies and equipment improve, many more answers are possible to issues which develop. The status quo or because that's how we do it, is no longer an acceptable answer.

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
Author: Ed Barrie - Sow Weaner Pig Specialist/OMAFRA
Creation Date: 16 December 2010
Last Reviewed: 16 February 2016