The History of the Oxford Sandy and Black Pig – Part VI

Sybil Bloodline Bred by Mr & Mrs Wild


In March 2016 at the #OSBPigGroup Bloodline and Breed Conformation workshop, Mr Sheppy discussed the naming of the bloodlines of which we now recognise today and his frustration in that the bearing shows no exact correlation to the breeding. His explanation, that the dam to daughter and sire to son naming is a genetic flaw in that it does not show any degree of relationship to the name founder as this only indicates where the family originated in the now. He gave the following example (take your time when reading): A sow called Somefarm Sybil 10th is by a boar Otherfarm Alistair 2nd and out of Somefarm Sybil. Otherfarm Alistair 2nd is out of Otherfarm Alice 12th and by Otherfarm Alistair. Somefarm Sybil is by Yetanotherfarm Alexander who is out of an Alice. Therefore,…


Adam Short of Cloud-Lines shared with us the explanation of breeding and the difference of kinship and mean kinship. Adam is very proficient in animal genetics and runs Cloud-Lines.

Cloud-Lines system makes tools such as Stud-Advisor and Kinship checks available to breeders, giving their members more access than ever before to breeding data, and ensuring everyone can participate in maintaining a healthy and sustainable breeding population. With the help of Cloud-Lines, and a lot of hardwork with the Charitys #OSBPG Register was launched. This system is available to help you run a thorough co-efficient, compatible and pedigree breeding search. Visit our website for more information.

Footnote: All information was directly given to Kim Brook by Mr Sheppy. This information was also shared at a talk Mr Sheppy attended by invitation of the #OSBPigGroup in March 2016. Therefore subject to copyright to the #osbpiggroup Permission will be granted if asked as long as credit is given to the OSBPG.

Jeff and Briony Wild breeders of the Sybil line

Photo: at source. Mr Jeff and Mrs Briony Wild dedicated breeders of the Sybil bloodline. They started breeding and keeping the sybil line in 1988 three years after the first herdbook was published by Andrew Sheppy. I had the pleasure of meeting and talking to Mr & Mrs Wild back in February 2017. Now retired


The History of the Oxford Sandy and Black Pig – Part V

The sow lines both past and present.

Please remember for pedigree breeding purpose the sow must have 14 evenly (or more) spaced and parallel teats as well as all the other attributes as per our interactive map on our website. Good temperament is a MUST as well as ensuring the compatibility of our pedigree breeding whereby our OSBPG Register will be of help.

The Oxford Sandy and Black sow line origins, are a little more complicated than the boar lines. There are relatively small number of main sources. All the present day sows are related to the four surviving boar lines.

The SOW bloodlines as they appeared in Volume 1 & 2

Alice, Buttercup, Clare, Clarissa, Cynthia, Dandy, Duchess, Elsie, Gloria, Henrietta, Lady, Mary, Pippi, Polly, Sandra, Sandy, Sarah, Sybil

Today’s CURRENT SOW Bloodlines:

Alison, Clare, Clarissa, Cynthia, Dandy, Duchess, Elsie, Gertrude, Gloria, Iris, Lady, Mary, Sybil

The bloodlines explained

CLARE AND CLARISSA BLOODLINE: These derive from the two sows from Mrs Watts at Don North’s Donmar Herd. Both Donmar Clarissa 1013A and Donmar Clare 1012A were by Aristotle. Clarissa was a litter sister of the line boar Donmar Clarence 4FS. The Clare bloodline was out of the other sow by Mrs Watts.

MARY AND DANDY BLOODLINE: These two bloodlines were both bred in the Dean Grove Herd of J & K Blackwell and from the same origins as the line boar Dean Grove Jack 1FS. Dean Grove Dandy 1004A is in Vol 1 (1985). There were 8 daughters from Dean Grove Mary all of which are in Vol 1 as well.

CYNTHIA BLOODLINE: All the Cynthias’ descend from Blackwood Cynthia of unknown pedigree and her daughters by a boar called Alfred bred by AG Lyman-Dixon. There are numerous daughters and granddaughters of Blackwood Cynthia registered in Volumes 1 & 2.

IRIS BLOODLINE: The original Iris was one of 4 litter sisters, Elmwood Enid 1127A, Elmwood Izy 1128A, Elmwood Norah 1129A and Elmwood Iris 1130A. All of which registered in Vol 2 (1986-7) by SP Croxford-Adams. Information shows that they were bought from WG Batchelor with Pedigree unknown.

HENRIETTA BLOODLINE: Mrs JE Loggin registered three Henrietta sows in Vol 1 all of which were litter sisters to the boar Edgehill Henry’s Cavalier. There was no further registrations of this bloodline. In the 1970’s there was a sow with piglets at the Smithfield Show and found later belonged to Hedley Le Bas at his farmpark up at Dartmoor but did not appear to be related to Mrs JE Loggin line.

ELSIE BLOODLINE: The foundation Elsie sow was Clockswood Elsie 1017A. Elsie 1017A was bred by John Backhouse who had followed the prick eared type after the disastrously wrong comments on the breed by RBST Technical Consultant, Lawrence Alderson, published in the “The Ark”

GLORIA BLOODLINE: The Gloria came from Gloria of Wiscombe from unknown pedigree. Her two daughters Wiscombe Gloria Sage 1001A and Wiscombe Gloria Onion 1002A were the oldest sows in Vol 1 (1985). They were both by Farway Boris and put back to him and went on to produce many daughters, granddaughters and the boar Happyhogs Boris Caesar 3FS. The Happyhogs Herd was owned by Nancy Howard from Devon. They were based on the Wiscombe Gloria and Farway Boris and then bred back to him. Unfortunatley Mrs Howard refused to be part of the herdbook and would not register her pigs. She later emigrated.

SARAH BLOODLINE: This line was based on Cobthorn Sarah, one of the two gilts purchased from Derek Dunstan in 1982. Cobthorn Sarah was the grandmother of Cobthorn Alexander Brigadier III. Her influence remains via Alexander and Alistair boars but the Sarah bloodline sadly is no longer.

THE CHASEWOODS LINES: Mr Sheppy talked of The Chasewoods and their influence of the lines they upheld at the time. They were as follows: Alice bloodline came via Bemborough Alice 1015A. The Alison bloodline was daughter of Alice. Chasewood Buttercup1007A. Duchess came via Cobthorn Duchess 1022A. The Lady Bloodline came via Chasewood Lovely Lady. Chasewood Polly 1016A, Chasewood Polly 1016A. Chasewood Sandra 1023A and Sybil came via Bemborough Sybil.

SANDY BLOODLINE: This bloodline came from Edgehill Sandy 1021A purchased from a dealer unknown pedigree. This line is now extinct.

PIPPI BLOODLINE: This was from Tanglewood Pippi 1003A who was a known Tamworth cross – line extinct.

GERTRUDE BLOODLINE: This bloodline is unknown in the early herdbooks but is shown in the later herdbooks from the Longash herd.

Tomorrow we will discuss the THE GENETICS AND NAMING OF THE LINES.

Footnote: All information was directly given to Kim Brook by Mr Sheppy. This information was also shared at a talk Mr Sheppy attended by invitation of the #OSBPigGroup in March 2016. Therefore subject to copyright to the #osbpiggroup Permission will be granted if asked as long as credit is given to the OSBPG.

Photos: at source


The History of the Oxford Sandy and Black Pig – Part IV

The boar lines both past and present and remember for pedigree breeding purpose the boar must have 14 evenly spaced and parallel teats as well as all the other necessary attributes as per our breed standard interactive map on our website. Good temperament is PARAMOUNT and we must also remember that the boar is the dominate factor it is he who’s progeny will carry forward the genes of teat alignment and we must always look at the compatibility of our pedigree breeding whereby our #OSBPG Register will be of help.

The Boar bloodlines are a very simple and straightforward analysis.

In the herdbook volumes 1 and 2 the following boars were present:

Alexander, Alistair, Boris, Clarence, Henry, Jack

Today’s Current BOAR LINES

Alexander, Alistair, Clarence, Jack

As you can see, we only have FOUR boar bloodlines and this is how fragile our breed is hence why the Charity beseech you to travel and look at the compatibility of your pedigree herd and any new lines you wish to introduce. Our #OSBPG Register can help you with this, available on our website.

What follows is the description and founding of each bloodline as Mr Sheppy explained.

JACK BLOODLINE: The foundation boar of the line was Dean Grove Jack born in 1977 and the very first animal registered in the Herdbook as 1FS. He was homebred. The Jack line is very simple and straightforward and all current Jacks trace back to Dean Grove Jack 1FS

BORIS BLOODLINE: This bloodline was based on the boar Farway Boris and was bred at the Farway Country Park from stock from Portsmouth City Council’s Leighpark Herd. The only Boris line boar registered appears to have been Happyhogs Boris’s Ceasar 3FS bred by Nancy Howard. The Boris bloodline influence on later stock is via his daughters of the Gloria line.

CLARENCE BLOODLINE: This bloodline is based on Donmar Clarence 4FS. Bred by Don North. Clarence 4FS was out of one of two sows from Mrs Watts and by a boar known as Aristotle whose origins are not recorded. Again this bloodline line is another simple line in that all the Clarences’ trace back to Clarence 4FS.

ALEXANDER BLOODLINE: The original Alexander came from the pigs, which came to Mr Sheppy’s Farm, from Derek Dunstan in 1982. Cobthorn Alexander was the first and his Great Grandson – Cobthorn Alexander’s Colonel 5FS was widely used in the 1980’s and is the origin of the later Alexander Boars. Mr Sheppy told us how Colonel was picked up from farm to farm to service sows up and down the country until one farmer decided to weigh Colonel as he was a big boy. Mr Sheppy was told that Colonel weighed 728lbs! (330kg). Mr Sheppy talked about Colonel with such fondness reiterating how gentle and wonderful he was and how he sired some wonderful progeny. Colonel was out of a Chasewood sow.

HENRY BLOODLINE: The only boar ever to be registered from this line appears to have been Edgehill Henry’s Cavalier 8FS. He was registered as “Breeder unknown” from litter bought from a dealer, pedigree of pig unknown. Although inspected and registered there appears to have been no further pigs of this line

ALISTAIR BLOODLINE: This bloodline comes from Cobthorn Alistair 13FS born in 1985. He was out of Bemborough Alice 1015A who was pure Chasewoods breeding. His sire was Cobthorn Alexander’s Colonel 4FS so could have been called an Alexander, but being three quarters Chasewoods breeding was made a separate line.

Tomorrow we will discuss the Sow lines. Make sure you have a large cuppa ready.

Footnote: All information was directly given to Kim Brook by Mr Sheppy. This information was also shared at a talk Mr Sheppy attended by invitation of the #OSBPigGroup in March 2016. Therefore subject to copyright to the #osbpiggroup Permission will be granted if asked as long as credit is given to the OSBPG.

Photo: at source


The History of the Oxford Sandy and Black Pig – Part III

The Breeding programme – Identification

In 1985 Volume One of the herdbook was produced. The search for all Oxford Sandy and Black Pigs in the country was on and all those that were found went into the herdbook, there were 15 boars, number from 1FS to 15FS.

At the time ALL boars were inspected and this was down to Geoffrey Cloke who travelled tirelessly up and down the country. We had 72 Sows, numbered from 1001A to 1072A. There were then 29 herds recorded.

Cobthorn Farm was the largest herd with 10 sows and four boars. Now with the breeding stock underway and the recognition of the bloodlines complete then came the Registration Procedure…As mentioned all potential boars were inspected and if they made the grade they were given a “Foundation Stock (FS)” number.  All sows that were put forward went in to the Herdbook with a number and the suffix “A” starting at 1001A. The sows from registered parents were registered with a suffix “B” and their offspring registered with a “C” followed by their offspring with “D” until their offspring were pedigree without a suffix.

The start-up Volume 1 was created in 1985 and it was safe to say that ALL #OSBPigs were recorded in this volume with all their diverse and wonderful naming system. Then in 1986/87 Volume 2 was produced whereby the rules were defined for the future of naming, therefore all pigs that were registered and noted in the herdbook must have the prefix of the herd of birth. Therefore in Volumes 1 and 2, registered pigs have, in addition to the prefix, an individual name or names containing the line name of the dam or of their sire. These names may also consist of the line name with the addition of an individual number. For example, Anyfarm Alice 3rd or Anyfarm Alistair 5th. Then to add a little spice to the naming game of the time you could also give an individual name, which was used, instead of a number. For example: Anyfarm Alice’s Rose BUT NOT ANOTHER LINE NAME e.g. Sybil. These line names were listed in Volume 2.

So to avoid confusion, these line names may not be used as individual names.

Tomorrow we will discuss the individual bloodlines

Footnote: All information was directly given to Kim Brook by Mr Sheppy. This information was also shared at a talk Mr Sheppy attended by invitation of the #OSBPigGroup in March 2016. Therefore subject to copyright to the #osbpiggroup Permission will be granted if asked as long as it carries the OSBPG name.

Photos: at source Catriona Cook Clockswood herd still breeding today and appeared in the Volume 1.


The History of the Oxford Sandy and Black Pig – Part II

The Beginning of the Oxford Sandy and Black Pig

In 1976 Mr Andrew Sheppy purchased two gilts from Derek Dunstan in Doncaster one called Sarah (a name choosen out of family tradition) and the other Susie, who produced the Cobthorn Alexander.

There was no serious recognition of the breed at the time. Finding a boar to breed from in these early days was, as Mr Sheppy described as “being near to impossible”. So pigs were bred within that family group. Therefore, Cobthorn Alexander was put back to his mother (Susie) and his sister (Sarah) and after several generations and careful selection the famous Cobthorn Alexander Brigadier III was born.

The next steps was to try and grow the herd and bring in new blood. Breeding of the Oxford Sandy and Black pigs continued at Cobthorn with the original bloodlines until 1982. However, in the September of 1982 Mr Sheppy purchased six sows from Bob Brickell’s Chasewoods herd, which were in Oxfordshire. The lines were Chasewoods Princess, Chasewoods Duchess and Chasewoods Lovely Lady. Chasewoods Princess had litter sizes of 20 and 22. After awhile the Princess line could not be put back into pig, which was a great shame for the breed.

As the years rolled on Mr Sheppy needed to get the breed recognised as with no Herdbook (recording the bloodlines and breeding) the RBST and other Associations would not give the recognition that the breed deserved so with the help of Steve Kimmins, Geoffrey Cloak, and Kath Blackwell the first herdbook Volume One was produced in 1985.

Tomorrow we will discuss the Breeding programme

Footnote: On the 26 March 2016 the Oxford Sandy and Black Pig Group was very honoured to have Mr Andrew Sheppy FLS .entertaining us with his knowledge of the breed that stemmed some 40 years! Mr Sheppy, together with volunteers, ran The Cobthorn Trust, which was a charity dedicated to critical genetic and biodiversity conservation work. Cobthorn Farm was Mr Sheppy home which had been in his family for over 200 years.

All information on the series of The History of The Oxford Sandy and Black Pig was directly shared and given to Kim Brook by Mr Sheppy. This information was also shared at a talk Mr Sheppy attended by invitation of the #OSBPigGroup in March 2016.

Photos: at source Front Cover of Volume 1 Official Herdbook. Drawing depicting breed standard conformation of an #OSBPig


The History of The Oxford Sandy and Black Pig – Part I

Picking and choosing your breed of pig is one of the most mind blowing exercises your brain will ever go through, well it was for me! 19 years ago I settled on the Oxford Sandy and Black Pig.

As the Charity has over 2000 members on facebook I thought it was about time we re-visited the history of our wonderful Oxford Sandy and Black Pig. I will split it up through the week so it is not too much to take in and my goodness i have already done two paragraphs. Best get a wriggle on!

The Oxford Sandy and Black Pig (#osbpig), has been recognised with the Rare Breed Survival Trust (RBST) since 2012. A breed qualifies with the RBST if it has 40 years breed history or has six generations of pedigree. DNA testing to research the purity of the breed is undertaken, bloods are sampled, checked and then confirmed that they are undiluted. Suffice to say that our breed was tested and confirmed that bloods were undiluted. Perhaps it may be time to do this again, who knows.

How it all began

In 1956 a young man by the name of Andrew J Sheppy of Cobthorn Farm, Somerset (now known as the Cobthorn Trust) took an interest in pigs, in particular the #OSBPig where his commitment and dedication to the breed is evident in what we see today.

Tomorrow we will cover how it all began.

As a footnote. All information we shared on the dialogue title “The History of the Oxford Sandy and Black Pig” was directly given to myself (Kim Brook) by Mr Sheppy. This information was also shared at a talk Mr Sheppy attended by invitation of the #OSBPG in March 2016.

Photo: from source 





It’s always busy and fun at the Oxford Sandy and Black Pig Group Foundation Charity.   We introduced one of our exciting new projects, the OSBPG Genetic Spread Allowance, which has proved very popular with our breeders. By following certain guidelines we are able to help introduce new bloodlines and spread the vital genetics geographically around the UK.  Fiona and Tristan MacLennan did just that.

August 2020 Fiona & Tristan MacLennan took a journey totalling 22 hours to introduce bloodlines not yet in Scotland.  With their commitment and dedication and the help of the OSBPG Charity it was triumphant.   We had to get it right, with many phone calls, messaging, who had what, who had boars, who had gilts were they related and most importantly, working with C-19.  Could it work?  YES it can!
Their journey started at 04:30 hrs on a Saturday morning from Argyll in the beautiful Scottish Highlands, to their first stop, Wales. Then they headed North to Lancashire, with the final leg of the journey and the last pick up at Dumfries.  Eventually they arrived home and fell into bed at 02:35 hrs Sunday morning!   Social distancing, hand sanitising and facemasks were all adhered to successfully.


The bloodlines introduced into Scotland is a monumental achievement. The MacLennan’s now have a Duchess line (the second in Scotland), Iris and an Alistair boar, both a first for Scotland.

Today, we are now proud to announce that an Iris/Alistair farrowing happened on 8 May 2021, with 2 boars and 8 gilts. A first for these proud parents and a fantastic first for Scotland!

It is with great thanks to Fiona and Tristan MacLennan for their devotion to our breed and the breeders of the OSBPG Charity who helped to make this happen!

Find out more about the OSBPG GSA programme by visiting or email



No photo description available.

The sow’s offspring sex ratio is a subject of considerable interest from both the theoretical and the practical point of view. In domestic animals, including pigs, the offspring sex ratio is also a feature of economic value. The gilts from litters with a higher proportion of females can deliver and feed more piglets as they have more teats, a higher fertility rate, and a better reproductive performance. But we already knew that, right?

A study conducted to assess whether litter size, maternal age and parity, paternal breed, maternal birth year and month, and litter birth year and month influenced the offspring sex ratio in domestic pigs. A total of 436 litters on 21st day of life were considered. It was found that paternal breed and litter size significantly affected the offspring sex ratio (fewer males in larger litters). Also maternal month of birth had a significant influence on offspring sex ratio (sows born in September-February delivered litters with a higher male proportion than those born in March-August). There was also a correlation at a marginally significant level between the offspring sex ratio on 21st day of life and proportion of stillborn piglets (more stillborn ones in the litters with the future higher male proportion).

Another study found that females with abundant resources would produce more females, as sows are territorial and would benefit from these resources. Conversely, if resources are poor, sows would favour male offspring, which disperse upon reaching maturity and move into new ranges. This theory has been supported by demonstrating that under normal conditions perinatal (immediately before or after birth) mortality is female biased. In support of this suggestion, it was reported that reduced embryo development and decreased female embryo survival were associated with differences in the variance of epigenetic (non-genetic influences) traits in the surviving litters at Day 30.

Different factors have been shown to be associated with birth sex ratio in mammals, such as nutrition, season of birth, diseases, stress, female’s age and parity, social status, levels of different hormones, type and time of insemination, oestrus synchronisation before insemination, habitat quality, population demography and sex of adjacent embryos in sows own birth litter.

So there seems to be no definitive conclusion other than knowing when your sow/gilts date of birth and monitoring if she was born from September to February or March to August and of course did she come from a litter that was higher in number of males and females. Pretty much similar to us humans i guess. As i know of one couple who in 6 generations from the male side have never had a daughter and all three brothers married and whilst the wives had sisters not one of them had a daughter but all sons!

The Oxford Sandy and Black Pig Group Foundation Charity are conducting a three year research to establish the sex ratio in seasonal farrowings, with quarterly reports being posted on their facebook forum here

OSB Pig Group Pig Diseases & Ailments – Salt Poisoning – water deprivation

With Summer fast approaching it is rather apt to cover this topic. It is not a common ailment but from time-to-time it does occur especially in the Summer months due to water deprivation or in some instances where whey is fed. The signs of salt poisoning can be tremors, lying stretched out, convulsions and sadly death.
Salt poisoning mostly arises from depriving pigs of water. The syndrome may occur, if say, after sudden unrestricted access to water after interruption by drought, low water pressure or freezing.
It is thought that dehydration of tissues and an increase in the sodium content of the brain occur. High sodium levels in the brain inhibit anaerobic glycolysis and acetyl chlorine esterase levels (tissue respiration) and appear to be responsible. Sudden rehydration may exacerbate the condition.

Degenerative nervous systems salt poisioning
Clinical signs
Peracute (very severe) salt poisoning occurs after the ingestion of massive amounts of salt and results in prostration, running movements, coma and death.
Acute salt poisoning following restricted water intake is most common.
Pruritus, thirst and constipation are followed 1-5 days later by blindness, lack of interest in food or drink and failure to respond to external stimulus. Affected pigs may bump into obstacles and may circle, pivoting on one foot. Head pressing may occur. Convulsions occur regularly (every 7 minutes).
The condition may occur in any pig with an inability to reach water.
Treatment and prevention
Spontaneous recovery may occur. The feed should be replaced and water intake controlled by giving small amounts of water at first to unaffected pigs and gradually increasing the amounts. Convulsing animals should be allowed to recover naturally.
Water should be offered and the pigs may be sprayed with water and placed in the shaded area and be undisturbed for at least 24 hours.
Also, it is wise that when moving pigs to new pens/homes do ensure that pigs can find the drinking water and please ensure that water is freely available, particularly in hot weather.
Personal note:
Every year contact is made to the charity’s trustees whereby fellow pig keepers have experienced their pigs shivering, convulsing and panting rapidly these phone calls/emails are particularly common in the summer months. So please be aware, especially those that use nipple drinkers outside, to ensure that there are plenty of water vessels to go around the paddocks. You can never have too much water.
Photo: Rachel Rivers, Pig333 and Kim Brook

The Oxford Sandy and Black Pig Coping in all Weathers

We, humans, cope quite well. We have a warm dry house, waterproof clothing, we can change our clothes and most importantly turn the heat up in our house or place a fan on to cool down.
In Summer our pigs do suffer from the heat and this we may have observed and experienced by certain behaviours.

Suffering the heat, effects their eating habits by a decreased feed intake which in turn is compounded by slow growth and milk production, but we often fail to realise that younger pigs suffer equally or to a greater extent during the cooler times of the year. Harmful results of chilling include slower growth, poor feed efficiency, loss of body fat, greater susceptibility to diseases such as scours and pneumonia, higher  mortality and even an increase in aggression.

When conditions are too cold, the pig will attempt to adapt by increasing heat production within its body and by minimising heat loss. Shivering increases metabolic heat production, and increasing feed intake increases heat production from digestion of feedstuffs which helps make the pig feel warmer, yes it is common sense but sometimes there is always one that will slip us by. It is also true to say, when pigs are stressed, they eat less rather than more so their heat production actually decreases. This is especially true at weaning time and when weaners are bought/sold and taken to their new homes in the winter or spring.
Common sense prevails and it may not surprise you that great care must be taken to keep them warm during transport and for at least 1-2 weeks after they arrive.
Particular mannerisms to look out for when our pigs are trying to minimise heat loss include: huddling together, tucking their legs beneath their bodies to limit contact with the floor and seeking shelter or the warmest, least drafty area in their pen. You may observe that the younger pigs may even alter their dunging and sleeping habits and lie down in their excrement because faeces and urine provide a temporarily warm floor. But, in the long run, this behaviour gets them wet, increases heat loss from their body and just makes them feel even colder.
Lower Critical Temperature is the temperature below which a pig must expend additional energy to maintain normal body temperature and essential body functions such as eating, drinking, playing and moving about.

The Upper Critical Temperature is that which adversely effects pig performance and normal bodily functions including decreased feed intake and rate of gain due to heat stress. The range 

This is especially true for the Lower Critical Temperature, which is much higher for younger pigs than older ones. Young pigs up to 18-22kgs are very sensitive to low temperatures and become chilled quickly. On the other hand, finishing pigs and lactating sows are much less sensitive to cold but do not tolerate high environmental temperatures, 2019 was testament to that as there was many losses due to the hot summer we had due to heat stress.between the both is called the Thermo- neutral Zone or Comfort Zone. The Comfort Zone varies by the age and size of our pigs with larger pigs generally tolerating
extremes in temperature.
As mentioned in previous dialogues, the temperature that pigs feel is seldom the same as what we read on a thermometer or that we as humans feel in the same environment. The temperature that the pig feels is called EffectiveTemperature. First of all, it is critical that we measure temperature at pig level since that may differ several degrees from a reading made at eye level on the wall several feet away from the pigs. For nursery pigs, this would be at a height of about 8-12 inches inside the animals’ pen. Even if measured properly, the reading on the thermometer is probably not the temperature that the pigs feel because there are several factors in addition to age and size that influence EffectiveTemperature. Therefore, the animal may not be comfortable and productive even if the temperature on the thermometer is within its Comfort Zone.
EffectiveTemperature is influenced by losses of heat from the body in at least four different ways.
  • Air moving across the animal’s body due to drafts, poorly designed or improperly managed ventilation or use of open-sided shelters for young pigs in autumn, winter and spring.
  • Radiant losses to cold surfaces such as poorly insulated walls, and ceilings, even though the animal is not touching the surface. An analogy of this is the feeling you get when you sit beside a single pane glass door in winter time as compared to sitting beside a heavily insulated wall. Your body heat is being used to warm that glass door.
  • Convective losses to surfaces the animal actually touches, especially floors. Concrete and metal floors are much “colder” than plastic, rubber mats or wood. Pigs lose half as much heat to a wooden floor as to concrete and only one-sixth as much to a plastic floor. However, wood is impossible to clean and disinfect so it is not recommended as a permanent flooring material in indoor production. Slatted floors are much colder than solid ones, regardless of material.
  • Evaporative loss of heat from the surface of the pig’s body occurs whenever our pig gets wet. Evaporation of water from the skin takes heat with it. We experience this when we exit the bath or shower and step into a cold room. Examples include accidentally spraying pigs while washing down facilities, pigs lying in their own faeces and urine, wet floors from leaking water vessels or using water to clean pens. However, we do use some of these methods when weaners/sows/boars need to keep cool in summer ie; spraying or hosing down our pigs.
How much do these losses of heat influence the way the environment feels to the pig; i.e., the Effective Temperature? For example, a slight draft of 40 ft/minute feels chilly to a 3-4 week old pig and makes an 26º room feel like 22º. This minimal draft is often not even detectable by people. A draft of 100 ft./minute will make that same room feel like 19º. Poor insulation in walls and ceilings and wet, cold floors will drop the Effective Temperature by 7º with each circumstance.
Therefore in a room where the thermometer at pig level reads 26º but there is a slight draft (-7º) and the concrete floors are wet (-7º), the pigs will feel like its 18º. Lack of insulation will drop Effective Temperature another 7º to 15ºC.
But as we know, providing a deep, dry straw bed will increase effective temperature by 8-12º. Therefore, pigs in a pen at 21º will feel more like 26º. As a general guide, dry straw bedding will make up for most of the wet and wintery months and the harmful effects of cold, wet floors and lack of insulation. However, drafts can still be a major problem, especially for 13-22kgs pigs in winter or spring when night temperatures can still be a little chilly, even if a deep straw bed is provided. At best, even with no drafts, the effective temperature will be 12-18º and pigs will feel chilled and probably get sick. Most other types of bedding, including shavings, are not nearly as effective as clean, dry straw. Ground or finely chopped straw is also less effective than “long” straw.
We know that older/heavier pigs are more resistant to cold and less resistant to heat and we, therefore, are more concerned with their comfort and well-being in the summer. Younger/lighter pigs up to about 8 weeks of age or 50 lbs can tolerate heat but are extremely sensitive to cold.
Since cold stress can be very harmful to the health and productivity of young pigs, what can be done to minimize it and make these smaller pigs as comfortable as possible? The following list is not exhaustive but includes some of the most important steps for pigs from birth to 22 kgs.
Learn how to identify cold-stressed pigs. Shivering pigs huddled together or lying with their feet tucked beneath them are sure signs of discomfort. Many of these pigs will get..
  • skinny and develop long rough hair coats (which we have seen from time to time. It is not a critisim of the breeder) if the cold stress continues for more than a few days.
  • Keep pigs dry at all times and replace or add new dry bedding frequently.
  • Eliminate drafts. Decrease ventilation during the cooler months, plug holes in walls and ceilings, replace broken roof profiles or windows. Use solid pen dividers. Never leave doors or windows open.
  • Add insulation to walls and ceilings.
A few ideas to prevent heat loss and maintain the minimum Effective Temperature, is create a micro-environment. Combine zone heating areas such as heat lamps or creep boxes and/or kennel-type rearing pens.

 “Whats in your barn Video” which can be seen in our video files on our facebook page. Features common to all three are lids or covers, solid floors, and they are made of “warm materials.” Do not use steel, aluminum or concrete.
Limit multiple stressors. Do not wean, vaccinate, change feed, transport, change environment and mix pigs on the same day. Doing more than two of them simultaneously will make the pigs more susceptible to chilling and health problems such as scour (diarrhoea).
Examples of good practices to limit stress
  • At weaning, just remove the sow and leave the pigs where they are for 1-3 days.
  • Make sure tagging, notching and tattooing and vaccinations are done well before weaning or transport.
  • When purchasing weaners/breeding gilts/sows and boars, bring them home and put them in an light, clean environment. Do not change feed, mix pigs or impose any other management stressors for about a week.