Five ways to reduce heat stress in pigs this summerFive ways to reduce heat stress in pigs this summer
June 19, 2015
THE heat is almost on: If the Old Farmer's Almanac maintains its 80% accuracy rating, the summer of 2015 will be hot and dry.
So, what can pig producers do now to prepare their barn?
Heat can create significant stress for pigs, often causing agitation and affecting their eating habits, Alltech said in a news release.
When pigs eat less, they convert less feed into muscle, thus reducing their average daily gain, increasing their days to market and, ultimately, putting a damper on the producer's pocketbook.
Stress also opens doors to many other possibilities such as health challenges.
"You have to take into account the heat outside in addition to the heat that the pigs are producing from eating and moving around in the barn," said Russell Gilliam, U.S. swine business manager for Alltech. "Respiratory rates begin to increase around 70 degrees F, and with high humidity, it becomes difficult for pigs to find relief from the heat on their own."
Pigs cannot cool themselves off as well as other animals, which makes it more important to ensure that their environment is as comfortable as possible.
Gilliam suggests five key management areas for beating the heat this summer:
1. Control the temperature. This is especially important in early and late summer as wide variations between nighttime and daytime temperatures can compound the stress levels the animals are experiencing. Avoid temperature shifts of a few degrees or more. Monitoring equipment such as computers, sensors and thermometers is essential.
2. Increase ventilation, and ensure adequate space. Since pigs can generate large amounts of heat, focus on practices that produce less. Ensure that each pig has enough space and ventilation. Minimize motion, and do not disturb the animals during peak temperature times of the day.
Check all fans and vents to ensure that they are clean and running properly. A worn-out fan, bearings or wiring can have dramatic consequences in the summer.
3. Focus on water quality and access. It is very important to make sure pigs have unlimited access to fresh and cool drinking water, as their water intake can also have an effect on feed intake. Taking water samples at the beginning and end of the water lines can help confirm that the water is of the best quality possible.
4. Power your nutrition program. Data have shown that offering pigs a combination of organic acids, electrolytes, enzymes and probiotics can support young animals during times of stress.
Organic acids support probiotic growth in the gut, and enzymes can help enhance intake and digestibility.
Electrolytes make sure the animal stays hydrated, especially in times of heat stress.
Combination technologies work quickly by lowering the pH of the water. Depending on the type of water and the target level for pH, these technologies can work on their own or with a combination of other ingredients to help optimize the gut environment.
5. Monitor your pigs. Even if you think it might not be too hot, pigs can still be affected by the additional heat they are creating. Watch for signs that your pigs are overheating: faster breathing, fluctuations in feed and water intake levels, reduced activity and lying stretched out on the floor, often separated from other pigs.
"Being prepared for heat stress challenges can lead to healthier animals and healthier profits," Gilliam said. "Addressing the summer challenges that arise as quickly as possible can have a major impact on the overall value of your pigs when you take them to market. To keep your animals prepared, it is essential you keep their nutrition equipped with technologies that build their natural immunity."
With more than 3,500 employees and a presence in 128 countries, Alltech improves the health and performance of people, animals and plants through natural nutrition and scientific innovation.
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