Reminders for Pork Producers when the Temperatures Drop

Watch for changes in your pigs' behavior to know if the cold temperatures are taking a toll. ( PORK )

Although most pigs are housed in climate-controlled barns today, extreme winter weather conditions can take their toll. Never take your pigs’ comfort for granted, advises Jeff Galle, professor emeritus at John Wood Community College. Watch for changes in your pigs’ routine or behavior to know if the cold temperatures are taking a toll.

1. Check your water supply.

This is the time of year when things that have never been frozen before freeze, Galle says. Don’t assume they have water until you reach up and touch the waterer to know there is water flowing, you don’t know. If you do have water lines that freeze, part of the secret of rehydrating pigs is to do it slowly, he says. Administer water little by little.

Pay close attention to watering systems with electric heaters as they pose the risk of stray voltage and shorts. Watch the pig walk to the waterer or drinker, if they squeal or flinch, you have a problem to fix fast.

2. Keep pens clean and dry.

Pigs actually perform well when the temperature drops, as long as they have reliable access to a warm, dry shelter to rest. Bedding is only good if it’s dry, Galle says. During extremely cold weather, wet bedding is very detrimental so keep your pens clean and provide extra bedding if needed.

3. Put up windbreaks where needed.

Do whatever you can to stop any drafts coming into your buildings. When temperatures drop, consider using a plastic tarp or sheet of plywood to prevent drafts.

“A draft, even a small draft, can chill the pig and change the ambient temperature of the pig,” Galle says. “Even though the farrowing house thermometer says 70 degrees, if they are laying in a draft, it may be 62. Remember when they are born, they just came out of a 102-degree incubator.”

4. Take inventory of your facilities.

Perform a basic walk-through in and around your facilities.

  • Check the ventilation system. Fans, louvers and cowlings should be cleaned to remove dust buildup. Also, make sure thermostat settings are accurate.

  • Brush air inlets. such as gable and soffit vents, to prevent blockage.
  • Check pit fans to ensure that they are operating properly.
  • Check bird-proofing of hog buildings and feed storage areas.
  • Conduct heater maintenance and check/order propane supply.
  • Repair leaky waterers or pipes and winterize the system to ensure pipes won’t freeze.
  • Check the overall soundness and security of buildings. Seal cracks to prevent leaks, check door jambs and test security alarms.
  • If you have a back-up generator, check to see if it’s in working order and that it has fuel. Make sure that workers know how to operate it.