Fall may be the ideal time to try reducing the nighttime temperature in pig nurseries

Research has shown nursery aged pigs prefer reduced nighttime temperature. Research has also shown turning the temperature down will not impact pig performance and will reduce fuel and energy expenses.

In the early 1980s Dr. Stanley Curtis reported if given the opportunity to select room temperature, pigs in the nursery stage of production preferred lower temperature during nighttime hours. Curtis’s findings were confirmed by Brumm in 1985 when he reported no differences in feed efficiency and slight improvements in average daily gain when pig nursery temperature was reduced approximately 10 degrees F during the evening and nighttime hours. More recent research by Johnston in 2013 confirmed reduced nighttime temperature did not adversely impact pig performance. Johnston also reported an average 30 percent reduction in heating fuel usage and a 20 percent reduction in electricity use when nursery room temperature was reduced. The research on reduced nighttime temperature is discussed in greater detail in the June 2013 issue of the Michigan State University ExtensionPork Quarterly”.

While the majority of the research on reduced nighttime temperature was conducted during the winter months, fall may be an ideal time of year for farm owners and pig nursery managers to first try the practice. Reducing the temperature during the nighttime hours involves adjusting the furnace on setting to the desired lower temperature then slowly letting the room cool. Given fall’s cooler evenings, the nursery room will gradually cool but over a longer time period than it would in the winter. In many instances the room temperature may not cool down to the furnace on setting. After gaining experience and confidence with reduced night temperature during mild weather fluctuations, producers will hopefully continue to use the practice on into the winter months.

Recommended practices for reducing nighttime temperature during the nursery phase:

  • Allow pigs to acclimate to the change in diet and housing prior to implementing reduced nighttime temperature. Do not reduce nighttime temperature until 5 - 7 days post weaning.
  • Reduce temperature by adjusting the furnace on setting to the desired lower temperature. Do not turn down the room temperature (set point) setting as the ventilation fans will immediately kick in and suddenly cool the room.
  • Reduce the temperature after 7 p.m. and raise the temperature back up at 7 a.m. This schedule follows the pig’s normal daily routine.
  • Maintain the normal nursery room temperature during the daytime hours.
  • Continue to follow the normal practice of reducing both the daytime and nighttime temperature 2 - 4 degrees per week. The extent of weekly temperature reductions should be consistent with current farm operating procedures.
  • Research has shown nighttime temperature may be reduced 11 – 16 degrees from the daytime setting without impacting pig performance.

Newer ventilation and temperature controllers may already have the capacity to change temperature settings based on time of day. Older controllers are less convenient and will need to have the furnace on setting adjusted down on a daily basis. Brumm in his early research on reduced nighttime temperature described using dual thermometers (controllers) and a switching clock where one thermometer was used for the daytime setting and the other for the nighttime setting.

Early research by Curtis concluded that young pigs prefer a cooler temperature during the nighttime hours. Subsequent research by Brumm and Johnston confirmed that when temperature was reduced during the nighttime hours pig performance was not adversely affected. Reduced nighttime temperature has the potential to make a significant reduction in energy needs during the nursery phase of production. It is a practice that should be tried on each individual farm.

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