Raising piglets in the winter can be a challenge because piglets are very susceptible to cold, wet weather, even when they’re inside the barn. So the most important thing to consider when raising piglets in winter is to know how to best keep them warm.
Because piglets lack significant sources of adipose (fat) at birth and do not develop these stores until maturity, they require a temperature of approximately 80 degrees Fahrenheit plus.
5 Tips for Raising Piglets in Winter
1. Buy a Heat Lamp
Considering just how susceptible piglets are to the cold, it’s a good idea to buy a heat lamp and place it inside the barn.
Piglets can sometimes be hesitant to climb beneath the lamp, but when it’s cold enough they will eventually all gather beneath it to warm up. While the hesitancy of piglets to make use of a heat lamp can be frustrating, it can actually be a good thing.
Heat lamps can be fire hazards, so when you see them no longer gathering beneath one, you know that your piglets are no longer in danger of the cold weather and you can remove the heat lamp.
2. Radiant Heaters, Heat pads and Incubators
A heat lamp isn’t the only artificial heat source that you can use. You also have the option of using radiant heaters, head pads, or incubators – with each having their own pros and cons.
Radiant heaters don’t emit light, so allow the piglets to rest. They also cover a wider area than a single heat lamp and come with a built-in thermostat that can gradually reduce the temperature. However, they are more expensive than heat lamps, need to be mounted above the piglets and onto a lid, and some heat will be lost upwards.
Heat pads might not be as flexible as heat lamps but they are efficient thanks to heat rising, sit flat on the floor and fits into creep area, and provide an even temperature across the entire mat.
Another option to consider is an incubator. The main downside to incubators is that they are specialized equipment that is designed for newborns, but they are portable, robust, easy to clean and provide all-around heat.
3. Control Draft and Dampness
A low temperature is undoubtedly dangerous to piglets but draft and dampness are even more concerning.
You, therefore, want to make sure that plenty of circulation above the pigs is provided to avoid condensation, and take extra care to prevent draft low down inside the barn.
4. Be Selective When Choosing Sows
Often nature knows best, which is why you want to be very selective when choosing sows.
Piglets sleep next to their mom who provides an excellent source of heat, just like mother nature intended. In fact, sows are able to increase air temperatures around their bellies by as much as 40 degrees. So when starting to implement a breeding program or expanding a current program, make sure that you invest in well-bred pigs.
5. Farrow in Warmer Months
It might not be very satisfying to hear, especially if you currently need to care for piglets in winter, but farrowing in warmer months will always be the best way to avoid the need for supplemental heat.
Feeding Piglets in Winter
Piglets require more food in the winter when compared to the summer months to keep warm and to optimize growth once they are weaned.
The amount fed to piglets should gradually be increased, and piglets should be established on a solid feed before they’re weaned so they are less likely to suffer digestive upset or growth setbacks.