A bodywarmer for piglets? Is this serious? It certainly is, and it is saving pig’s lives and farmer’s money.

It is an odd and little known fact, that an animal as synonymous with thick skin as the pig often starts its life at risk of hypothermia. Seeing a chance to outsmart this evolutionary weakness, Dutch initiative Thermolab has picked up where Mother Nature left off, by designing a specialized piglet bodywarmer, which increases their survival rate.

In Europe, and certainly in the Netherlands with a livestock of 12 million pigs alone, the last decade has seen a rise in the public demand for better treatment of animals, resulting in farmers giving more and more space to their livestock.

This in itself is a great development, but in the case of pigs there is a drawback. The extra space means a drop in important body contact and snuggling between mother and piglet, piglet and siblings. The smallest piglets, which already have problems reaching their mother’s milk, are consequently at risk of dying from hypothermia. Spotting super cooled animals by eye and putting them underneath a heat lamp is only half a solution.

Enter the piggy bodywarmer.

An inconvenient truth for piglets is that when they are born, they don’t have much of their own bodyheat or fat to keep that warmth inside. Other young animals, like polar bear cubs, hedgehogs, bats or even human infants, do have that layer of insulation, called ‘brown fat’. Realizing that the piglets’ design flaw could very well use a design solution, researcher Arno Vlooswijk of Thermolab, a research centre for thermoregulation located at the Green Campus in Helmond, formed the concept of the piggy bodywarmer. This tiny piece of cloth insulates body heat at just the right places, around the vital organs, without restricting movement.

Designer Niels Aarts followed up on Vlooswijk’s initial prototypes and a pig farmer was happy to serve as a partner in the process. Aarts developed several prototypes by observing the piglets in their natural environment, before the final version was developed.

With farm animals set to have more and more space in the future, it seems the piglet bodywarmer will be the fashion trend of the next decade. A new spin-off product, the calf cover, is already in the making.

Images: AgriMeetsDesign

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