Following a scorching summer last year and with temperatures currently on the rise, pig producers are being urged to manage heat stress to avoid the negative consequences it can have on feeding behaviour, growth rates and animal welfare.
Hannah Elliott, monogastric technical manager at Lallemand Animal Nutrition, explains:
“Heat stress can have a significant impact on all ages of pigs with research showing that they start to show signs of heat stress from as low as 17-180C.
“One of the most important impacts of heat stress is a change in feeding behaviour, which has a significant knock-on effect on performance and can cause severe health problems. However, by paying close attention to the pig’s nutrition and environment, heat stress can be effectively managed,” she says.
Ms Elliott explains they have seen good results in maintaining feed intakes when pigs have been given probiotic supplementation in their diet, mainly in their ability to adapt their eating behaviour to the heat stress conditions.
“We’ve found that when using the specific probiotic live yeast, Saccharomyces c. boulardii CNCM I-1079 (Levucell SB), normal feeding behaviour, feed intake and growth in fattening pigs can all be maintained during a significant heat stress period.
“We also have positive field experience using the probiotic to ensure sow performance under heat stress, with improved piglet growth during lactation and at weaning.”
It is not just about what is in the feed, adds Ms Elliott, but also when and if the pig consumes it.
“It’s far better to feed sows during the cooler periods of the day as they will be likely to consume more. Smaller portions fed regularly throughout the day, can also help avoid a decrease in feed consumption and reduce feed spoilage,” she says.
Management of the pig’s environment also plays a crucial part in avoiding heat stress. Ms Elliott explains for outdoor pigs, making sure that arks or tents are properly insulated, or white in colour to reflect the heat, and that adequate shade is provided, will help reduce heat stress.
“Clean fresh drinking water is essential and mud wallows are a great way of keeping pigs cool, and will also provide a form of sunscreen,” she says.
For indoor herds, she explains there is a much greater level of control of the environment but ventilation needs to be assessed.
“Adequate ventilation is crucial but systems must be kept in good working order. Automated systems will adjust air inlets and fans according to conditions but they must be well-maintained and checked regularly.
“Evaporative cooling/misting systems or sprinklers can also help. Again, make sure pigs have a constant supply of cool, clean water, maintaining adequate pressure during peak demand periods,” she says.
“Managing the environment of pigs, combined with diet supplementation in feed, will help ensure that you are one step ahead when sustained high temperatures come along,” concludes Ms Elliott.