Sows try to keep their cool

Friday, April 27th, 2018

A team of Purdue researchers has developed a cooling pad that helps keep sows healthier and more comfortable in farrowing houses, where they feed piglets after giving birth.

Modern sows are having more piglets than ever, and feeding those larger litters causes the sows to have higher body temperatures. The individual cooling pad is intended as a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative to using air conditioning, fans or cooled floors to reduce temperatures in barns.

The cooling pads — developed by Allan Schinckel, professor of animal sciences, and Robert Stwalley (pictured), assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering — are 2-foot-by-4-foot aluminum tread plates on top of copper pipes that circulate water. Sensors can determine if the sow is getting too hot and circulate new water, cooling the pad again.

“We can’t air-condition pig barns,” Stwalley says. “But we can provide a conductive path under the pad that is enough to cool the animal, and isn’t economically or environmentally counterproductive.”

The researchers are still improving the technology and searching for a partner to license and produce the pads for sale to farmers.

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