The heat is almost on. If the Old Farmer’s Almanac maintains its 80 percent accuracy rating, summer 2015 will be hot and dry. What can pig producers do now to prepare their barn?

Heat can cause significant stress for pigs, often causing agitation and affecting their eating habits. 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 pocket book. 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. Respiratory rates begin to increase around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and with high humidity, it becomes difficult for pigs to find relief from the heat on their own,” said Russell Gilliam, U.S. swine business manager for Alltech.

Pigs cannot cool themselves off as well as other animals, thus making it more important to ensure 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 night and day temperatures can compound stress levels that the animals are experiencing. Avoid temperature shifts of a few degrees or more. Monitoring equipment such as computers, sensors and thermometers are essential.
     
  2. Increase ventilation and ensure adequate space. Since pigs can generate large amounts of heat, focus on practices that produce less. Ensure each pig has enough space and ventilation. Keep motion minimal and do not disturb the animals during peak temperature times of the day. Check all fans and vents to ensure 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 drinking levels can also have an effect on feed intake. Taking water samples at the beginning and end of the water lines can help confirm water is the best quality possible.
     
  4. Power your nutrition program. Data has 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.

    In a related study, Alltech’s Acid-Pak 4-Way 2X was administered through drinking water for the entire nursery period as part of Alltech’s Gut Health Management program (FRIO, A.J.L., YU, E., AND R. SANTOS; 2009). In terms of overall performance, the investigators found the combination of acidifiers maintained optimum conditions for the pigs to maintain electrolyte balance and pH levels.
     

  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 on the floor, often separated from others.

“Being prepared for heat stress challenges can lead to healthier animals and healthier profits. 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,” Gilliam said. “To keep your animals prepared, it is essential you keep their nutrition equipped with technologies that build their natural immunity.”

For more information on protecting pigs this summer from the heat, visit the Alltech booth #217 at the 2015 World Pork Expo.