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Cooler pigs: new technology makes sows more comfortable

Cooler pigs: new technology makes sows more comfortable

Researchers designed cooling pads that can determine if sows are overheating


By Kaitlynn Anderson

Staff Reporter


Farmers may be able to improve their pigs’ productivity, thanks to a team of researchers at Purdue University.

Allan Schinckel, a professor in the Department of Animal Sciences, and Robert Stwalley, an assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, designed cooling pads that can help sows lower their body temperatures, according to Wednesday’s university release.

The devices, which consist of “aluminum tread plates on top of copper pipes that circulate water,” have sensors that can detect sows’ body temperatures.

If a sow becomes too hot, the technology will activate and circulate cool water through the copper pipes. Since “aluminum and copper have a low heat capacity and high thermal conductivity,” the materials can efficiently transfer the heat from the sow into the water, the team’s report states.

By removing the excess heat from the sows, the pads could improve the animals’ productivity, Schinckel told on Thursday.

“In hot weather, the sows are … stressed and have reduced reproductive performance,” he said. “Conception rates decrease and subsequent litter sizes are reduced.”

The pads can reduce these negative impacts by cooling the animals to temperatures that encourage them to produce more milk and consume more feed, he said.  

The technology also offers a more efficient alternative to existing floor and air cooling systems.

In fact, the devices remove heat from the sows at a rate “three to four times greater than previous cooling pad designs made of concrete and steel pipes covering entire floor sections,” the report stated.

Purdue University provided funding for the research through the Agricultural Science and Extension for Economic Development (AgSEED) program.


Top photo: Purdue Agricultural Communication photo/Tom Campbell

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