How to Handle Heat Stress in Swine
Are you prepared for the hot summer months?
Ever heard the expression, “sweat like a pig?” Well, this term can be quite misleading as pigs don’t sweat. During the summer, heat stress is one of the main concerns in pork production due to the fact swine don’t have functional sweat glands to help efficiently remove body heat. Since they can’t sweat, pigs are prone to overheating.
To reduce the amount of body heat they generate, pigs may decrease their activity and food intake while increasing water consumption. This can lead to deprived feed conversion and growth, reduced milk production during lactation, and impeded fertility.
Although we can’t control the weather, there are tips to help handle heat stress in swine.
Ventilation is Vital
Ensure ventilation and cooling systems are working correctly. Regularly perform maintenance and equipment checks, and confirm any issues are fixed immediately. Some components to check for are air inlets, fans, sprinklers, and thermostats. Cover any ceiling windows where sunlight might shine directly into pig pens. Another good idea is to incorporate insulating inner barn roofs, and use lighter reflective colors on the outside of the pen to reduce heat absorption and radiation. Ventilation and rapid airflow can help barns from getting humid and prevent pigs from overheating.
Factor in Floor Space
Barns can get quite overcrowded, and more bodies means more heat. To help prevent heat stress, reduce the stocking density in barns to increase floor space per pig. Increased floor space gives pigs more room, and provides the ability to lay down to dissipate heat. This is especially important for older and heavier pigs. Remember, when swine are in skin-to-skin contact with other pigs they have a harder time losing heat and staying cool.
Sprinklers are Significant
Sprinkler systems and drip coolers can remove heat from pigs through evaporation and convection. When a pig’s skin gets wet it increases the cooling effect as air evaporates the water, thus removing heat from the animal. A good rule of thumb for group settings is sprinkling water in one-to-two-minute intervals for short periods – every 20-30 minutes – to allow the humidity to evaporate from the swine’s skin. Be sure to check your sprinkler systems frequently to guarantee they are working properly.
Find the Right Feed
When the weather gets warm, pigs’ feed intake tends to decline. Therefore, your diet should include a proper feed additive to ensure pigs are getting the nutrients they need. Overcoming the challenges of heat stress requires a healthy, stable gut environment. Healthy populations of beneficial gut bacteria can help pigs resist stress and perform better. By providing a suitable additive, such as SynGenX® / Dia-V Nursery (depending on your region) by Diamond V®, you can help promote gut health, immunity, and performance. A balanced immune system takes stress in stride. Using a proactive approach toward proper nutrition will have a major impact on your production and profitability.
Extreme temperatures can take their toll on pig herds. Be on the lookout for visible signs of heat stress. These include discomfort and distress, increased water intake – up to six times more, panting, poor coloring and rough skin, slowness, and stupor. By taking appropriate actions like those listed above, producers can evaluate, utilize, and minimize heat stress in their swine. What are you doing to combat heat stress this summer? Let us know in the comments below!