Temperature Monitoring of a Stud
In this article we will discuss the importance of temperature monitoring in the barn and lab. This will include when and what information to record, ideal temperatures for boars, proper lab temperatures and a few helpful tips throughout.
Monitoring the barn temperatures should occur as part of the initial morning walk through as it is just as important as the daily observation of the boars themselves. The person taking the readings should notify the manager immediately if there are any significant changes. And the manager should review the recorded readings straight away each morning as adjustments to the ventilation system may be required. In general, boars are most comfortable in temperatures ranging from 15°c – 24°c. Housing methods can affect this comfort zone as well. For instance, boars housed in deep bedding can remain comfortable as low as 13°c. Semen quality issues can arise from too cold of an environment, but unless boars are housed in an open-air facility this is rarely the case. Most concerns for semen quality involve too warm of an environment especially as the ambient temperature reaches 26.5c and remains this high continuously for 8 or more hours. To understand the importance of monitoring barn temperatures it is worth noting that the effects on semen quality from a single prolonged (greater than 8 hrs) temperature stress event can take up to 8 weeks to be resolved.
Temperature indicators are standard on most, if not all, ventilation controls. For open air facilities a simple high/low analog thermometer can be used. In all cases you will need to “reset” the temperature monitoring device after taking the readings to allow the current days high/low to be determined. Advances in digital technology have led to the availability of many reasonably priced continuous monitoring devices, including some that can be accessed remotely via cell phone. This continuous monitoring can be very beneficial as it allows you to see how long boars experience high or low temperatures. If the responsibility for taking the temperature readings rotates through multiple people, it is important to pay attention to the high/low temps. being recorded. If you see the exact same High/low temp. for two or more days then it is very likely the device is not being reset. Take this opportunity to retrain all individuals.
Tip: Sensors should be placed at the standing head level of the boars in order to record the most accurate temperature that the boars themselves are feeling.
As with the barn it is important to record daily the current temp. and the high/low temp. from the previous day. In larger labs it is common that there are two temperature zones. The general lab area will be one temperature, usually 18°c, while a separate dose cooling room will be maintained at 14-15°c. If you do not have a separate area for cooling doses, then it is recommended to maintain the lab at 16°c. It is generally accepted that once the semen has been packaged into individual doses, the initial 10°c of cooling should occur gradually (cooling from 36°c to 25°c over a period of ~45 minutes). Cooling from 26°c down to 15-16°c can then occur at the lower temperature. For studs putting out a large number of doses on production days the separate cooling room (14-15°c) allows the stud to work more efficiently as often they must prepare doses for transport throughout the day versus waiting until all production is done at the end of the day.
Again, what we do with the information recorded is as important as recording it in the first place. The person recording the temperatures should notify the manager of any significant changes and the manager should review the temperature record at least once weekly. It may not initially seem important to record the high/low temperatures in a lab. However, it should not be assumed that labs are able to maintain a set temperature throughout the day and across all seasons. For instance, one may find that, in warmer climates or seasons, a lab maintains proper temperature during the cool of the morning but by late morning or early afternoon the cooling system cannot keep the proper temperature. In addition, extender vats, packaging equipment and computers are all adding heat to the lab throughout the day.
Tip: Many labs can benefit from including a dehumidifier as having a dry environment is easier to maintain cooler temperatures.
Monitoring the barn temperatures is not only important for semen quality but also important for the overall health and wellbeing of the animals. If a ventilation system is not properly adjusted, it may be creating large swings in daily temperatures which is an added stress on the animal and can increase the animals susceptibility to respiratory and other health issues. For the lab, maintaining proper temperatures during processing and cooling is the final step in the long process of semen production. Ensuring that the doses are processed and cooled properly will ensure you have done your part to ensure the results on the sow farm reflect the work you have put in at the stud.