Animal Heating Recommendations




Animal Heat Mats

Heat rises, so having heat under animals tends to be more effective and economical than using heat lamps. Less heat is lost when using heat mats because the heat source is completely utilized by the litter and creates a more precisely targeted heated area. This is especially beneficial for piglets. When heat lamps are used, heat travels to the sow, and this can create a hazard by encouraging piglets to get too close to the sow, increasing the chances of laid-on or crush losses. Heating mats provide a safe warm zone and also avoid the chance of a bulb going out, which happens with heat lamps resulting in periods of time where the animals could be without heat. Reliable heating is key, as cold areas can result in scours, respiratory issues, and other health problems that harm livestock, slow their growth, and cost producers.

Another benefit of a heat mat is its shape, because heat mats can distribute heat to a targeted area such as piglet creep areas. For litters over twelve pigs, a five-foot mat is used to provide the recommended 0.33 square feet per piglet. For wean-to-finish operations, Dr. Hongwei Xin of Iowa State University recommends 0.5 square feet per pig. Centering the pig heating pads in the creep area keeps the piglets near the teat they are nursing from, thus encouraging increased lactation. By also keeping the sow cooler, she is encouraged to eat more and be more comfortable. Frequently, sows that are too warm fidget and move around to find a cooler place to lie, which increases crush-losses.

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Animal Heat Mats

Replace heat lamps with a heat mat.

General Operational Requirements Requires a means to safely enclose wiring, for example in PVC pipe.
Potential Energy Savings (1) 40-80%
Typical Simple Payback (2) 1-7 years
Possible Barriers Farmers wary that animals may chew the mat. High-quality mats are made of durable, water-resistant, and fire-retardant materials that can handle scratching, chewing, and impacts.
Non-energy Benefits Better distributed heat source can keep sows cooler and reduce crush losses; mat serves as a draft barrier on slatted floors

1. “Potential Energy Savings” represents the potential savings as a percentage of the total energy use for each technology category. E.g., if animal heating as an end-use was 20% of a farmer’s electricity usage, and if the above table showed a Potential Energy Savings of 50%, then the net effect would be a 10% overall electricity energy savings (20% * 50% = 10%). An individual farmer can then predict the Economic Benefit through annual cost savings as 10% of their annual bill. So, if a farmer’s annual electricity bill is $10,000 then the potential cost savings for switching to animal heat mats would be 10% * $10,000 = $1,000.

2. “Simple Payback” is defined as the installation costs divided by the potential energy cost savings. An individual farmer can then predict the Expected Implementation Cost by taking the cost savings from item #1 above and multiplying it by the Simple Payback for the Technology being investigated. So in this example, if animal heat mats have a Typical Simple Payback of 2.0 years, then the estimated implementation cost would be $1,000 * 2.0 = $2,000.