Date of this Version
Research was conducted to assess the effects of the type of zone heater and floor mat used in a wean-to-finish building on the thermal environment created for newly weaned pigs and resulting pig performance. Gas-fired brooder heaters were compared to electric heat lamps and farm-cut wood sheathing was compared to commercial [unheated] rubber floor mats. No consistent differences in air temperature near the heating zone were found between either of the treatments. However, black-globe temperatures in pens having gas-fired heaters and/or wood mats were consistently warmer than in their comparison pens. Temperature deviations during the 26-day study period were similar statistically for both air and black-globe temperatures (about ±2.5°F) for all treatments, as were the temperature deviations from pen to pen for all treatment combinations (±1.7°F or less). Pig health was affected by an outbreak of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRSV). Performance of the disease-challenged pigs was similar for the two heating systems. However, pigs in pens having wood sheathing on the floor below the zone heater consumed more feed on a daily basis than those resting on rubber mats. This evidence supports statistically significant (P<0.05) advantages for the wood mats in pig weight (+3%) and average daily gain (+6%) over the 26-day study period. Feed-to-gain ratios over this same time period were similar for all treatments. The fact that there was greater radiant heating (as indicated by warmer black-globe temperatures) with gas-fired heaters in this study suggests that extra adjustments in heater height and gas pressure may have been needed to obtain equivalent heating effects, and that additional information on placement and adjustment of zone heaters also would be useful to producers. The data collected in this study and associated experience of farm management imply that producers can develop an similarly stable thermal environment for nursery pigs using either electric heat lamps or gas-fired brooder heaters. The improved heating effect and pig performance observed in this study with floor mats made from wood sheathing have positive practical implications. Sheets of wood sheathing are readily available from many local lumber suppliers and hardware stores and can be purchased at a fraction of the price of commercial rubber mats. A small amount of labor is required to quarter the sheets, and we don’t recommend re-using the wood mats. But, the results of this study suggest that wood sheathing should be investigated further as a floor-mat option.