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Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 21(6): 1067-1071. (doi: 10.13031/2013.20032) @2005
Authors:   Q. Zhang, H. Xin
Keywords:   Swine farrowing, Piglets, Localized heating, Heat mats, Resting behavior

In-barn tests were conducted to study the resting behavior of piglets on heat mats in swine farrowing crates. An environmentally controlled farrowing room was set at 21.C (70.F) to simulate winter conditions in farrowing barns. Two enlarged crates [1.94 . 2.13 m (6.4 . 7 ft)] were used in the tests and each crate had a 0.6- . 1.2-m (2- . 4-ft) electrically heated mat. Mat surface temperatures of 33.C (91.F) and 35.C (95.F) were tested. Resting patterns of piglets on heat mats were recorded on videotapes using a time-lapse VCR and were subsequently analyzed. Heat mats provided a comfortable thermal environment to piglets as a low degree of huddling (10%) was observed. A difference of 2.C (3.6.F) in mat temperature (33.C vs. 35.C) caused no differences in the resting behavior or growth of the piglets. Piglets spent more time nursing than resting on heat mats during the first 24 h after birth. Heat mat usage by piglets was high (>50%) from day 2 to 5 and it started to decrease thereafter, a result of less need for heat as piglets grow. The area occupied by piglets on the mat averaged 0.044 m2/pig (0.47 ft2/pig) and 0.074 m2/pig (0.80 ft2/pig) for 1- and 14-day old piglets, respectively. The dynamic heat mat use behavior of the piglets indicated that a mat size of 0.37 m2 (4 ft2), as typically used in current commercial production facilities, could accommodate most of the space needs of a litter of 12 piglets; but larger mats (e.g., 0.56 m2 or 6 ft2) would be advisable to ensure the well-being of piglets under unfavorable (cool or drafty) environmental conditions when the mat needs to accommodate the entire litter simultaneously.

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