Our winters can be bitter cold, so how do you keep your animals warm?

Answer: Temperature-controlled barns with some added insulation keep our pigs warm and healthy during the cold winter months.

Tropical vacation? Who needs that when you have heated hog barns to go into everyday!

Keeping our livestock warm is an important part of our daily chores in winter. My wife, Liz, has been known to tell people: “The barns are warmer than I can keep my house!”

I am fortunate to have some modern technology to keep the pigs warm in my barns.

There are three main things which heat and cool my barns – curtains, outside fans, and heaters. My barns are curtain-sided barns which mean they have a thick plastic side that runs the full length of two sides of the barn. These curtains are run automatically by the temperature-control units in the barns.

I will also add some insulation to the west side of the barns on the inside of the curtains. The insulation I use is a shiny bubble wrap that looks like a pool cover. This helps reflect heat back into my barns to keep the pigs warm. I will put this extra insulation up around Thanksgiving and leave it in there until the end of February.

If I have smaller pigs in my barns (which need to be kept warmer) I will add insulation to the east side of the barn. Smaller pigs will give off less body heat so we do our best to make sure the barns are sealed up.

These temperature-control units also run large fans outside of the barn that will suck warm air out and pull fresh cooler air in through vents in the ceiling. The fans are on an automatic speed controller that will speed the fan up if it is getting too warm in the barns and slow the fan down when it’s getting cool. If we have some warm days in winter and the fans are not able to cool the barns completely, my control boxes will send a signal to the controllers that will lower my curtains to help cool the barn then raise them when needed.

If the barns need some additional heat, I have two heaters that run off propane which will provide supplemental heat. With 1,000 pigs in my barn, body heat usually helps. As the pigs gain more weight the less the heaters will run. With young pigs weighing 45-55 pounds, the barn needs to be about 68 degrees.

As the pigs grow, I will lower that temp down slowly until the barns are at a nice 62 degrees. A slow temperature change is needed so the pigs don’t get sick.

So my pigs are comfortable during these cold winter days in my heated barn compared to years ago when my dad and grandpa raised pigs outdoors, which was much harder on their health and well-being.

Kevin Faivre is a 5th generation farmer and raises pigs, corn and soybeans. Kevin and his wife Liz and children Alex and Joe reside on their farm in rural Malta.