Increasing rectal temperatures’ effect on piglet survival

136 newborn piglets from seven litters were included in a study where rectal temperatures in the first two hours after birth were recorded. Rectal temperature after birth plays an important role for the piglet’s survival rate. By providing newborn piglets additional heat right after birth, the drop of rectal temperature is minimised, which improves the piglet’s survival rate.

Heat for piglets

The aim of this study by SEGES Innovation was to investigate the effect on rectal temperature two hours after birth in newborn piglets by applying a heating mat immediately after birth.

The study comprised three groups:

  1. Piglets were placed on slatted floor (cast iron) for one hour (control).
  2. Piglets were placed 15 minutes on a heating mat and 45 minutes on slatted floor.
  3. Piglets were placed 60 minutes on a heating mat.

All piglets were placed by the sow’s udder one hour after birth and were monitored for another hour. The piglets’ rectal temperatures in the first two hours after birth were recorded.

Offering additional heat increases piglet temperature

All piglets in the study had a rectal temperature of 39.2-39.4 ⁰C at birth. As expected, the rectal temperature dropped drastically within the first 30 minutes for piglets in all three groups. The piglets that remained on the slatted floor with no additional heat source (control group) experienced an average drop of 4.6 ⁰C vs an average drop of 3.2-3.6 ⁰C for the piglets that were offered additional heat.

Data revealed no changes within the groups in rectal temperatures in the first 30-60 minutes after birth. However, roughly half of the piglets in the control group had – at some point – a rectal temperature below 36 ⁰C. And after two hours, 14 % of the piglets in the control group still had a temperature below 36 ⁰C, while only 3 % and 6 % in the other two trial groups had a temperature below 36 ⁰C.

The longer the piglets were placed on the heating mat, the higher their rectal temperatures were after 30 minutes. In addition, the percentage of piglets with a rectal temperature above 36 ⁰C increased.

In all three groups, the piglets’ rectal temperatures did increase after 60 minutes when they were placed by the sow/udder and continued to increase throughout the entire period.

Minimising the drop in rectal temperature can increase piglet survival

In the control group, the newborn piglets’ rectal temperatures dropped drastically for the first 30 minutes after birth. After 30 minutes, only 5 % of the piglets in the control group had a rectal temperature above 36 ⁰C, whereas, the 41 % and 78 % of the piglets in groups 2 and 3, respectively, had a rectal temperature above 36 ⁰C after 30 minutes. Even after two hours, not all piglets in the control group had been able to increase their temperature to above 36 ⁰C. And these piglets had a lower survival rate the first seven days of life.

It is recommended to offer additional heat to newborn piglets to minimise the impact of the natural drop in rectal temperature. This can be a good tool to increase piglet survival in your herd.

Read the full study of how using a heating mat for newborn piglets increases the chance of survival.

Heating around the time of birth saves 0.3 piglets per litter
This article focusses on heating mats, but you can also use other available heat sources.
Read more about how additional heating around the time of farrowing can save 0.3 piglets per litter.