The complex environment surrounding young pigs reared in intensive housing systems directly influences their productivity and livelihood. Much of the seminal literature utilized housing and husbandry practices that have since drastically evolved through advances in genetic potential, nutrition, health, and technology. This review focuses on the environmental interaction and responses of pigs during the first 8 wk of life, separated into pre-weaning (creep areas) and post-weaning (nursery or wean-finish) phases. Further, a perspective on instrumentation and precision technologies for animal-based (physiological and behavioral) and environmental measures documents current approaches and future possibilities. A warm microclimate for piglets during the early days of life, especially the first 12 h, is critical. While caretaker interventions can mitigate the extent of hypothermia, low birth weight remains a dominant risk factor for mortality. Post-weaning, the thermoregulation capabilities have improved, but subsequent transportation, nutritional, and social stressors enhance the requisite need for a warm, low draft environment with the proper flooring. A better understanding of the individual environmental factors that affect young pigs as well as the creation of comprehensive environment indices or improved, non-contact sensing technology is needed to better evaluate and manage piglet environments. Such enhanced understanding and evaluation of pig-environment interaction could lead to innovative environmental control and husbandry interventions to foster healthy and productive pigs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas