Outdoor farrowing environment

Close monitoring of your outdoor farrowing environment is essential for the success of your unit. Use this information to maximise the potential of the piglets and sows.

What are the challenges of outdoor farrowing?

Outdoor production accounts for 40% of the English breeding sow herd. However, in outdoor systems, can be difficult to achieve precise temperature control for newborn piglets. The lower critical temperature for neonatal piglets is approximately 34ºC.

When born, piglets are exposed to a drop in environmental temperature. As the piglets dry off, they lose heat through evaporation, resulting in a further reduction in body temperature.

Heat loss in piglets

It is critical to limit heat loss from piglets after birth because they:

  • are born wet
  • have a large surface area to body mass
  • have limited energy reserves (brown fat) to produce body heat
  • do not have hair for insulation

If a newborn piglet's temperature does not steadily increase back to normal, it will become lethargic, less competitive and more prone to starvation, disease and death.

It is impostant to make sure the farrowing environment is dry, warm and draught-free.

Outdoor farrowing and welfare

Defra's code of practice for the welfare of pigs has specific recommendations for pigs kept outdoors, including:

Farrowing arcs should be sited on level ground to reduce the risk of overlying. Suitable fenders should be used to prevent very young piglets from straying during the post-farrowing period

Farrowing arcs should be insulated and have provision for some degree of extra ventilation, such as manually controlled flaps

Defra code of practice for the welfare of pigs

Key to successful outdoor farrowing

  • Provide a dry, clean, well-bedded farrowing arc
  • Interact with sows to gain their trust
  • Observe closely around farrowing and address any problems quickly
  • Carry out routine tasks quietly and efficiently, so as not to stress sows or piglets

Use the information on the pages below to make sure your outdoor farrowing environment meets the needs of sows and their newborn piglets.

How to manage the farrowing arc or hut

Maintaining the right farrowing arc or hut properly is important. This information looks at design, paddock layout and preparations to make during the farrowing period.

How to manage the farrowing arc or hut

Strawing up and preventing draughts

Strawing up farrowing arcs correctly and preventing draughts can help prevent pig mortality in outdoor systems. Use this information to help reduce heat loss from piglets.

Strawing up and preventing draughts

Protecting your pig unit from predators

Piglet losses are bad for production – and they can also result in stressed sows and low staff morale. Use this information to prevent predators such as badgers and foxes.

Protecting your pig unit from predators

Wallows and outdoor farrowing

Sows are particularly vulnerable to heat stress before farrowing and at the end of lactation. Find out how a wallow can help keep sows cool in warm weather.

Wallows and outdoor farrowing

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