As the weather warms up, many farms start to see issues with their herd’s feed intake. Pigs are easily stressed by heat, and not eating is one of the first signs that there could be an issue.
When pigs eat, they begin to generate some internal body heat, just from digestion – so it makes sense that if they're already in a warm environment, eating would be something that could wait on until the temps got cooler. Pigs often wait to eat until the cooler evening temperatures, but feed intake levels are generally suppressed across the board during the summer months.
Research shows that heat stress can cause up to a 30% reduction in feed intake. This can significantly impact growth and days to market, meaning your market weights could suffer if you’re limited because of a fixed time situation.
Push pig intake – even in the heat
Here are a few suggestions for keeping intake steady when the temperatures start to rise.
Formulate to reduce heat increment. Pigs don't want to eat anything that makes them hotter. So, maintaining a diet that is formulated to reduce heat increment can help take the pressure off the summer intake situation. A diet that reduces excess crude protein or fiber content – two significant contributors to heat increment – can help pigs maintain better consumption during the hot summer. Ralco's EnMAX® diets are specially formulated with less soybean meal to lower crude protein and heat increment in digestion. Excess soybean meal in diets unnecessarily drives up formulation costs and takes energy for pigs to digest, leaving animals more susceptible to heat stress and off-feed events. EnMAX diets help pigs stay cool and on feed.
Increase nutrients and energy. Traditionally, producers have accepted the lower feed intake in the summer, and compensated by making the diet more nutrient and energy dense. They’ve usually done this by adding fat to the diet and providing more calories in a more concentrated quantity. While this works well, the cost of adding fats in today's marketplace can be quite high.
Improve gut health. When economics is a limiting factor, increasing feed efficiency as much as possible becomes crucial. Nutrient absorption is driven by good gut health. A healthy gut is more able to utilize the nutrients in the diet. Also, a healthy gut creates a healthier immune system, meaning the body uses less energy to fight pathogens and diseases. Ralco’s ProsperEO™ drives down harmful bacteria and increases good bacteria in the gut. Using prebiotic fiber and essential oils, the product has been shown to boost the immune system.
Watch out for mycotoxins. Mycotoxins in your feed can significantly impact pig health and feed intake, and when intake is already a concern, this can substantially affect your finishing pigs. Mycotoxins, produced by mold, can be found in corn as it comes out of the field and aren’t limited to any geography. Make sure you’re checking your feed regularly for these pathogens. Adjusting your formulations or adding a product that helps support animals in the face of feed quality concerns, such as IntegraFlo™, can help you manage the presence of mycotoxins in your feed.
How can improving pig feed efficiency impact your operation?
Feed efficiency is especially valuable when feed costs are high. With today's costs, a 0.1 change in feed conversion is worth around $3 per pig. Over a 1,000-head barn, this can be big money! Holding on to intake during summer can keep your pigs healthy and productive.
Wondering what improvements (or losses) in efficiency might mean for your operation? Check out our loss and inefficiency calculator, and learn more about how Ralco’s team of experts can help your operation be more successful in the heat of summer.
Talk to a Ralco representative today to see how adding ProsperEO, IntegraFlo or EnMAX diet formulations to your operation could help make your farm more successful in the summer heat.