Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Self-activating cooling pad designed to keep hogs cool

Living in a hog barn during a heat wave can be unbearable. Overheating can lead to various problems for hogs, such as dehydration, heat stress, and even death in severe cases. It is important to monitor their environment and take necessary steps to keep them cool during hot weather.

Now, scientists at Indiana’s Purdue University have come up with a solution to this problem. They have created a self-activating hog-cooling pad to keep these animals comfortable during hot weather.

“Under heat stress conditions, lactating sows reduce their feed intake and milk output to attempt to reduce their metabolic heat production. In consequence, their piglet growth and subsequent reproductive performance are negatively affected,” said Francisco Cabezon, who earned his Ph.D. at Purdue University. “In boars, some negative impacts of heat stress are decreased sperm motility and concentration and an increase in sperm abnormalities.”

Designed by Purdue’s professors Allan Schinckel and Robert M. Stwalley III, the cooling pads are 2-foot-by-4-foot aluminum tread plates on top of copper pipes that circulate water. Since there is only room for the sow on the pad, piglets that need to stay warm are off the edge while they feed. The sensors integrated into the pads determine if the hog is too hot, which triggers a connected pump to circulate new water to keep the pad cool.

Rendering of a hog cooling pad designed at Purdue University that will be manufactured and sold by IHT Group of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Rendering of a hog cooling pad designed at Purdue University that will be manufactured and sold by IHT Group of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Credit: IHT Group

“The Purdue-developed IHT active swine cooling pads will represent a paradigm shift in hog production, increasing both operational efficiency and animal welfare,” Stwalley said. “We are refining the pads and their materials, currently testing stainless steel pipes versus copper pipes to continue optimizing their performance.”

Researchers said the initial research showed that cooling pads make sows more comfortable.

“We saw a decrease in their overall respiration rates, slightly lower internal temperatures, and lower daily maximum temperatures. The sows also produced more heat, which corresponded to an increase in their feed intake and milk production; this improves animal welfare and well-being,” Schinckel said in the press release. “Piglets who were on the cooling pads had a 26% increase in weaning weight and a 7.2% increase in feed intake.”

IHT Group of Winnipeg, Manitoba, has signed an exclusive license and will manufacture and sell the pads in North America beginning in spring 2024.