Purdue invention improves health and welfare of lactating sows | Agriculture

WEST LAFAYETTE — A patented Purdue University invention designed to cool sows and reduce their respiratory rate during farrowing has been licensed to Innovative Heating Technologies for further beta testing and commercialization.

Company president Chris Grant said Innovative Heating Technologies has more than 25 years of experience producing energy-efficient equipment for the agricultural industry. He said licensing sow cooling pads is a perfect fit and the next logical step for the company.

“Our primary focus is to work with hog producers in a very narrow application: we manufacture the most energy efficient heat mat for farrowing and nursery applications,” Grant said. “Introducing a cooling product specifically designed to reduce stress and improve animal welfare is a direct complement to our existing business.”

The cooling pads, developed by Allan Schinckel, professor in the Department of Animal Science, and Robert Stwalley, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, are 2-foot-by-4-foot aluminum rolling plates on top of pipes copper that circulate the water.

Since there is only room for the sow on the pad, piglets that need to stay warm are pushed away from the edge while they feed. Sensors in the pad can determine if the sow is getting too hot and circulate new water, again cooling the pad.

Schinckel, Stwalley and their students have published several peer-reviewed papers on sow lactation heat production, feed intake and technology in journals such as Applied Engineering in Agriculture, Journal of Animal Science, The Professional Animal Scientist and American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.

“These published papers show the solid science around our design for efficient and effective heat removal,” Schinckel said. “We recently published data that demonstrates how cooling pads increase piglet weaning weight during periods of higher temperatures.”

A selection of articles is available on these links:

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  • Initial evaluation of floor cooling in lactating sows subjected to acute heat stress (

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  • Heat capacity of pig cooling pad (
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  • Electronically controlled cooling pads may improve litter growth performance and proxy measures of milk production in heat-stressed lactating sows (

Grant said Innovative Heating Technologies will beta test the pads through partnered research trials at Purdue and select grower testing facilities.

“Conversations about heat stress and sow chilling have been prioritized by producers and veterinarians. They are eager to implement new technologies related to animal welfare,” Grant said. “We look forward to participating in further research with Purdue and have set ourselves the goal of introducing a commercial chill pad into swine facilities as soon as possible.

Grant said the pork market is changing. Producers are driven to adopt and integrate new technologies related to improving sustainability and animal welfare.

“When sow cooling pads are tested, our primary focus will be to verify the effectiveness and performance of the pads and the impact they have on sow welfare and performance over time,” said Grant said. “This is the data our customers will want to see.”

Schinckel and Stwalley’s research was supported by a Purdue AgSEED grant, a Trask Innovation Fund grant, a National Pork Board Student Research or Extension Experience grant, and the Wabash Heartland Innovation Network.