Effect of drying and warming piglets at birth on preweaning mortality

Katherine D. Vande Pol, Andres F. Tolosa, Caleb M. Shull, Catherine B. Brown, Stephan A.S. Alencar, Michael Ellis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Piglets are susceptible to hypothermia early after birth, which is a major predisposing factor for preweaning mortality (PWM). Drying and warming piglets at birth has been shown to reduce early postnatal temperature decline. This study evaluated the effect of drying and warming piglets at birth on PWM and weaning weight (WW) under commercial conditions. A completely randomized design was used with 802 sows/litters (10,327 piglets); sows/litters were randomly allotted at start of farrowing to one of two Intervention Treatments (applied at birth): Control (no drying or warming); Drying+Warming (dried with a cellulose-based desiccant and placed in a box under a heat lamp for 30 min). Piglets were weighed at birth and weaning; PWM was recorded. Rectal temperature was measured at 0 and 30 min after birth on all piglets in a subsample of 10% of litters. The effect of farrowing pen temperature (FPT) on WW and PWM was evaluated by comparing litters born under COOL (<25°C) to those born under WARM (≥25°C) FPT. The effect of birth weight on WW and PWM was evaluated by comparing three birth weight categories (BWC; Light: <1.0 kg, Medium: 1.0 to 1.5 kg, or Heavy: >1.5 kg). PROC GLIMMIX and MIXED of SAS were used to analyze mortality and other data, respectively. Litter was the experimental unit; piglet was a subsample of litter. The model included fixed effects of Intervention Treatment, and FPT or BWC as appropriate, the interaction, and the random effects of litter. Piglet rectal temperature at 30 min after birth was greater (P ≤ 0.05) for the Drying+Warming than the Control treatment (+2.33°C). Overall, there was no effect (P > 0.05) of Intervention Treatment on PWM or WW, and there were no Intervention Treatment by BWC interactions (P > 0.05) for these measurements. There was an Intervention Treatment by FPT interaction (P ≤ 0.05) for PWM. Drying and warming piglets reduced (P ≤ 0.05) PWM under COOL (by 2.4 percentage units) but not WARM FPT. In addition, WW were lower (P ≤ 0.05) under WARM (by 0.79 kg) than COOL FPT; however, there was no interaction (P > 0.05) with Intervention Treatment. In conclusion, this study suggests that drying and warming piglets at birth increases rectal temperature and may reduce PWM under cooler conditions, which are typically experienced in temperate climates during the majority of the year.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbertxab016
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalTranslational Animal Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


  • drying
  • farrowing
  • piglet
  • preweaning mortality
  • rectal temperature
  • warming

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • General Veterinary


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