Heating conventional indoor weaner sheds with reduced nocturnal temperatures in winter

Project goal

This project set out to compare the growth performance, mortality rate, and cost of production of weaners housed indoors with standard heating (STD) or nocturnal temperature reduction (NTR) heating regimes.

Project summary

Heating weaner sheds in winter represents a significant energy cost in the pig industry. Reducing the heating cost in weaner sheds may be a way to control the cost of production if animal welfare and performance are not compromised.

An overseas study showed that a heating regime with 6°C reduction in nocturnal temperature saved 30% energy cost without negative impacts on growth performance in winter (Johnston et al. 2013). This project studied the implementation of a similar system in the Australian climate.

An experiment was conducted to compare the two heating protocols and their impact on the growth performance of weaners housed in a conventional shed (metal slatted floor with the concrete lying area; 18 pigs/pen) in winter.

The two heating protocols are:

  1. STD (standard heating regime): set room temperature of a constant 28°C post weaning, then decreased by 2°C each week thereafter
  2. NTR (Nocturnal Temperature Reduction): similar daytime temperature setting as STD but set to 22°C from 15:00 h to 07:00 h daily from 4 days post weaning

Value for producers:

  • Reduces winter shed heating costs and Increases sustainability
  • The NTR heating regime used 20% less gas compared with STD heating regimes. The total cost of feed and energy usage was $84 lower for 1000 weaners during 35 d during winter.


  • Growth performance and mortality rate of weaners were not different between STD and NTR heating regimes
  • The occurrence of piling was similar between STD and NTR heating regimes. The NTR heating regimes tended to increase the proportion of pigs huddled during the early weaner phase
  • Rectal temperature of piglets in the NTR group was slightly lower than STD group during the early weaner phase but still within the normal range
  • Before implementation, pig producers are encouraged to evaluate the NTR heating regime in their production systems and climate conditions.
Research enquiries