Housing system for sow and piglets for better health and production

Girin Kalita and Kalyan Sarma
Pig farming comprises of two components – one is the production for weaned piglet and rearing of breeding animals and the other is the production of finisher pigs for pork production by rearing of weaner pigs. In one farm, both the components may exist, or there may be only one component. Rearing weaner pig for 6-7 months (birth to weaning -2-3 months + 6-7 months fattening period = total 8-10 months), till they attain the slaughter weight of 90-100 kg is comparatively easier and majority of the small-scale farmers prefer it. Managing of breeding animal for weaner pig production require more skill and technical knowhow, therefore it is limited to few farmers only, causing scarcity and higher price of weaned pigs. On the other hand, without weaner pig, the other component–the finisher pig production cannot exist. Therefore, for improving pig production scenario in the country, we must give more stress on weaner pig production. Among many factors, housing of nursing piglet with lactating sow and weaner piglet is one of the important factors affecting young piglet survivability and growth. In this article housing need of these pigs and modern housing structures available for pig will be documented.
Normal internal body temperature of piglets is around 390C. At this internal body temperature, all the body processes function properly and we can expect good growth and less diseases. Like other domestic animals, pig is also homoeothermic (warm blooded) animals. That means, due to different metabolic reactions taking place in living cells of the animals, heat is constantly being produced in pigs’ body, which keep the animal warm and maintain the required internal body temperature. Amount of heat produced inside the body, will depend upon the body mass or in other words body weight of the animal. The birth weight of newly born piglet usually varies from 1 to 1.3 kg, and range of the lowest the highest may even vary from 0.5 to 2.5 kg. therefore, very less amount of heat is being produced in newly born piglets.
After maintaining internal body temperature of the animal, the extra heat produced must be dissipated to the environment. Heat from the body is generally dissipated to the environment through the body surface of the animals. Higher the body surface of the animals, higher will be the rate heat dissipation. When we compare the body surface of an adult pig weighing 150 kg and 1 kg newly born pig, the surface area in relation to body weight is much higher in small animals, the therefore rate of heat dissipation is more in young animal when kept in same environmental temperature.
Again, the amount of heat loss from the animal body will depend upon the environmental temperature where the animal is being reared. If the environmental temperature is too low, rate of loss of heat from animal body will be more and vice versa. Another factor, which control the heat dissipation from the animal body is the insulation of animal body. Fat layer beneath the skin act as heat insulation for the animal and reduces the rate of dissipation of heat from the body to the environment. In young newly born piglet, fat cover beneath the skin is almost nil and therefore body heat conservation is very less in young piglets. Glycogen present in the body at the time birth, provide the readily available source of heat. Compared to other livestock, the glycogen present in young piglet is very less and limits the heat production.
In adult animal thermoregulatory system is well developed and to some extent they can withstand temperature fluctuation in the environment. However, in young animals including piglets, this thermoregulatory system is well developed and to some extent they can withstand temperature fluctuation in the environment. In young animals including piglets, this thermoregulatory system is not well developed and making them more vulnerable to environmental temperature fluctuations. Therefore providing extra source of heat or brooding of young piglets is highly essential to maintain the internal temperature of the animal. When required temperature is not maintained, to conserve heat, the rate evacuation of bowel or rate removal of undigested feed from the intestine is lowered. When these undigested particles are retained inside the intestine for long period, there are chances of infection and the piglets may suffer from diarrhoea, which will further aggravate the condition of piglets. Immune system to fight against disease is not well developed in young animals and in piglets up to three months of age. When, animals are suffering from cold stress, the thermoregulatory system couldn’t function normally and further increases the chances of infection. The environmental temperature where the piglets and sow feel comfortable is mentioned below.
The lactating sow feels comfortable at much lower temperature than that of young one. Therefore, within the farrowing pen, there should be a provision of extra source of heat for piglets. This area is called creep a rea, where creep feed (first feed to piglets) and source of heat is placed. Two 200-watt electric bulbs could be used s heaters, especially during early winter. If available, infrared bulbs should be used, which provide more heat. Other types of heaters available in the market can also be used. The right temperature for piglets is shown by their behaviour. If piglets stay close to the sow or to the heat source or huddle together, then temperature is too low. If piglets stay close to the sow but stay away from the heat source and still huddle together, then the heat source might to too high. If piglets are evenly distributed in the pen and in the brooder, then the temperature is just right. Rough hair coat may indicate sickness or cold temperature. Always keep the brooder or creep area warm, dry and clean. Clean dry paddy straw should be used as bedding material in the creep area where heating source is located. Now a days, electric heating plates are also available, which can be fixed in the creep area.
Transfer of pregnant sow from dry and pregnant sow pen to farrowing Pen
Usually pregnant sows are shifted to farrowing pen 7-14 days ahead of expected date of farrowing. It is always better to shift before 14 days of farrowing. When piglets are inside the mother’s womb, the active immunity produced in sow against the microorganisms of surrounding environment don’t pass through the placenta, rather they are deposited in the colostrum and are passed to the newly born piglets if they consume it after birth. For production of such immunity, it requires around 14 days’ time. If the sow is transferred before that, to a farrowing pen, which might have different set of microorganisms against which she may not have produced immunoglobulins, might predispose the new born to infections from such microorganisms after birth.
Slated floor instead of solid floor in farrowing pen
In most of pig farms in India, the floor of farrowing pen is solid, and mostly made up of cement concrete. In such condition, the sow usually gets dirty with urine and faeces, and to clean that regular washing of sow and the pen is done with water. Even after regular washing, it is not possible cleans the sow completely and the udder along with teat gets dirty. There is every possibility of getting infection by the piglets during ducking from such udder. In majority of cases, after washing with water, little amount of water along with faeces and urine retained in small holes of damaged floors. Piglets usually do not drink water up to7 days of age if milk production of sow is optimum. However, if ilk production is low, they may drink water before 7 days of age. When piglets started t lick or drink such contaminated water from the floor, there is every possibility that piglets normally up to 14 days of age and the piglets are more vulnerable after that. However, certain amount immunoglobulin present in milk production is not sufficient to supply all the nutrients required for piglets after 7 days of lactation and piglets started to search for feed or other liquid from that age. Intake of feed or liquid becomes considerable when milk production started to decline after third week of age. Therefore, if floor is not properly clean, which might be a normal case in solid floor, and intake of colostrum and milk is not up the mark, piglets suffer from infection mostly diarrhoea resulting high mortality, which may even go up to 40%. To maintain the cleanliness, in most of the developed countries nowadays slated floors are used. Through slated floor, urine is readily passed to manure pit placed below the pen and the pen always kept dry. Some amount of dry solid faeces also slowly passed through slates and occasional removal of dry faeces help to keep the floor of the pen very clean. There is no room for water logging in slated floor and piglets don’t get the chance to lick such dirty water. Slated farrowing pen fitted with farrowing carte has another advantage. The sow cannot turn in such pen and don’t get the chance to lye over faeces or urine, which keep the udder with the teat remain clean and chances of infection is minimized. As the sow remain clean, there is no need of regular washing of animals with water and cost of the labour can be minimized to a great extent. Only occasional cleaning of hind quarters of sow with removal of faeces is enough to the keep the sow and the pen clean. From management point of view sows or piglets don’t need any washing with water.
Farrowing crate in farrowing pen
Crushing of piglets by the sow, during first two days after farrowing causes 10 to 20% death of new born piglets. Specially designed farrowing pen is of great help to avoid the crushing death. In this farrowing crate, sow is kept confined and cannot turn inside the pen. Two loose bars placed along the side of crate prevents lying of sow directly over the piglets and minimize the chances of crushing. In most of the developed countries these types of farrowing crates are used.
Housing system for weaners
Piglets are normally weaned between 28 to 56 days of age. At this age, piglets immune and digestive system not mature enough to cope up completely with solid feed and challenging rearing condition. (To be contd)