Innovative Cooling Pads Mitigate Heat Stress in Lactating Sows, Boosting Productivity

Researchers from Purdue University and the USDA-ARS Livestock Behavior Research Unit have unveiled promising results from a study on lactating sows, revealing that electronically controlled cooling pads (ECP) can effectively mitigate the negative impact of heat stress on sow productivity and litter growth. The findings, published in the Journal of Animal Science, shed light on a breakthrough for the swine industry.

The study, led by Jay Johnson, Taylor Jansen, Michaiah Galvin, Tyler Field, Jason Graham, Robert Stwalley, and Allan Schinckel, involved 12 multiparous lactating sows with litters. The sows were divided into two groups, with one exposed to electronically controlled cooling pads (ECP) and the other to non-functional ECPs (NECP). All sows were subjected to cyclical heat stress conditions.

Results indicated that the sows with access to ECPs exhibited a significant decrease in respiration rate and maximum daily body temperature compared to those without functional cooling pads. Moreover, ECPs led to a substantial increase in total heat production and heat production per unit of body weight, suggesting improved thermoregulation.

The most notable outcome was the positive impact on litter growth performance. Litters from sows with ECPs displayed a remarkable increase in average daily gain and weaning weight compared to those without functional cooling pads. Importantly, sow feed intake remained consistent between the two groups.

The researchers concluded that electronically controlled cooling pads effectively improved litter growth, thermoregulation, and bioenergetic parameters associated with increased milk production in lactating sows exposed to cyclical heat stress.

These findings offer a potential solution to mitigate the adverse effects of heat stress on swine production, providing a pathway for enhanced sow productivity and overall litter health. As the swine industry seeks sustainable and efficient practices, the adoption of cooling pad technology could represent a significant step forward in ensuring the well-being and productivity of lactating sows and their litters.