pigs under heat lamp

How do farmers keep pigs warm during cold winter weather?

This blog was written in direct response to one of your questions: “How do farmers keep little pigs warm when they are born during really cold weather?” It’s a great question, and there is a very simple answer: all of our hogs are raised inside heated buildings, so they are protected from the weather.

That would be a pretty short blog, so here’s some more background information. On our hog farm, we specialize in one certain phase of pork production. We breed the moms (sows), assist with birthing (farrowing), and care for the piglets only until weaning age, about three weeks. At that time, the piglets are moved to a different location. The sows are then bred again and the cycle continues.

Back to the pigs’ living conditions and comfort level: during most of the sows’ time on our farm, they’re pregnant. After all, they’re pregnant for almost four months, nurse for three weeks, are weaned, and usually are ready to be bred again about one week after weaning. During the time they are gestating, or pregnant, they stay in a large building that has a slotted concrete floor. This allows waste to fall through to the pit, or basement, and allows the sows to stay dry, warm, and clean. The barn is heated to 72 degrees in the winter, and cooled as much as possible during the summer. Using various techniques, we can usually keep it 8-10 degrees below the outside air temperature, so if it does get to 90 degrees, it’s still 80 inside. The sows definitely don’t like it that hot, but it’s better than 90.

When the sows are due to farrow we move them to appropriately-named “farrowing rooms.” They’re our version of Labor & Delivery. These rooms have the same basic design, although the floor is woven stainless steel with much smaller gaps so the newborn piglets’ tiny hooves don’t fall through. The sows are held within stalls which allow them to stand up, lie down, eat, drink, and take care of personal business, but otherwise confine them in a fairly small space. This minimizes the sows lying on the baby pigs, which have additional space to move around mama.

Because the sows like it cool and the piglets like it much warmer, we use rubber mats under and heat lamps over the piglets to help keep them warm and comfortable while maintaining room temperature at 72-74 degrees. When it’s time to move the piglets to the next farm, we use a converted Jewel grocery store trailer. Because the trailer is insulated, we can heat it and keep the piglets warm until they arrive at their destination, about 20 minutes away.

This system is fairly typical of a modern hog farm. We can compare this to the good old days of sows farrowing in uninsulated huts in pastures, carrying straw through the snow drifts to bed the huts, breaking ice in frozen water troughs, and picking up frozen or laid on baby piglets. Sows, piglets, and caretakers are all much happier with the current system.

Chris and Dana Gould

About Chris

Located exactly 50 miles west of The Loop and situated between St. Charles and DeKalb is our family-owned Gould Farm. Chris’ father, Eldon, focuses on raising pigs, while Chris focuses on growing and harvesting corn, soybeans and wheat. The farm is a family effort, which is why we’re making room on the farm for future generations.

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