Creating the ideal environment within a modern pig barn is key to protecting pigs from heat stress. Dr. Jim Hedges, Senior Technical Advisor for Ralco Swine Nutrition, shares his top five ways to prevent and overcome heat stress in pigs, focusing on the warm summer months.
1. Don’t Crowd the Barn
Even in the winter, crowding can negatively impact feed intake. But during the summer, when it’s hotter in the barn, crowding will drive feed intake down even more. Lower feed intake directly impacts the pigs’ average daily gain.
It sounds simple, but the more hogs you put in the barn, the more heat they will produce, and this compounds the negative effect of heat on hog performance.
2. Check Your Ventilation and Controller
While it’s always important to keep a watchful eye on your ventilation system, give it an extra tune-up as the summer months approach. Are all your fans running smoothly and in sync? Are the ceiling inlets bringing in clean air? Are your temperature alarms working so you’ll know exactly when something goes wrong?
These simple touch points could prevent a significant heat stress event.
3. Use Misters
Pigs do not actually sweat. One way a pig loses heat is through evaporative cooling. Misters get the pigs wet, and as it evaporates, it helps them cool their bodies down. They can also lose heat through respiration.
The modern pig is very lean and later maturing, making them more prone to heat stress than the pigs we used to have. Therefore, we need tools, such as misters, to keep them comfortable.
4. Provide Quality Water
“People think water is water, and they don't pay much attention to its quality,” says Dr. Hedges. “There's a lot of water out there that's high in minerals, or the wrong pH, that kind of thing. There is water treatment equipment there that can be very helpful.”
Overall, we’ve been lucky to have great quality water in this country. It doesn’t hurt to routinely monitor your water to ensure it’s suitable for your animals. If pigs don’t like the water they are given, they will drink less and, in turn, eat less.
5. Evaluate Feed Consumption and Diet
A big tip from Dr. Hedges is to keep the feed bins full, so out-of-feed events do not happen. He sees this as more of a problem in the summer because the pigs will start eating at the crack of dawn after the night has cooled them down. If they cannot eat until the feed is refilled later in the day when it’s warmer, they won’t want to eat as much as they should since they’ve lost their appetite.
A diet revision may also be in order. Since pigs will eat less in the warm months, adjust their diet to compensate. “If you know that feed intake went down, you can raise the amino acid density of the diet to help compensate for the reduced intake of amino acids” shares Dr. Hedges. “But the hard part is energy. You really can't get back to the same energy as in the winter months.”
Ralco’s Approach to Swine Diets Can Help You Protect Your Herd from Heat Stress
This is where Ralco’s EnMAX® solution comes into play. EnMAX is a proprietary approach to swine diet formulation, using lower inclusion rates of soybean meal and allowing for more low-cost energy ingredients such as corn. This unique approach results in less waste in digestion and provides more efficient energy, also resulting in a lower heat increment.
Let the team at Ralco help build a custom recommendation for your farm. Our team of swine experts and nutritionists develop tools using essential oils, prebiotics and diet formulations to help improve the health of your pigs in many situations including heat stress.
Swine producers working with Ralco typically see:
Less outbreaks and severity
Reduced antibiotic use
Overall higher health status of animals
Less fall-behind animals