Piglets may get a better start in life if they are nurtured on a warm waterbed, according to German research. Instead of piglets snuggling up to the sow for warmth, and running the risk of being crushed, German scientists say that waterbeds could be a safer alternative.

When Martin Ziron and researchers at the Institute of Animal Breeding and Genetics in Giessen, Germany tested various heating methods on 1,400 piglets during their first few weeks of life, waterbeds won hands down.

“Around 99 percent of the piglets preferred warm waterbeds to any of the alternatives, spending well more than half of the day lounging about on them, and only getting up to feed or play,” Ziron notes.

The scientists compared the number of injuries, which usually occur while scrambling for a feeding position, and the weight gain of the piglets that were provided with plastic plates, foam mats, water-beds, straw or concrete.

Piglets on the water-beds had fewer injuries and gained more weight than the animals kept on concrete.

“The waterbeds are made from a tough plastic membrane and can be heated from underneath by an electric mat or from above by infra-red lamps,” say the researchers.