With the current heatwave showing no signs of abating, it’s important to ensure pigs are comfortable throughout the summer so that productivity doesn’t take a hit. Record these hot spells in your diary, then look ahead to see when the effects of the high temperatures might be seen in the performance of both sows and boars.
The most significant impacts are usually seen around three and five weeks after the period of hot weather, which means we are now in the peak time for semen quality to be at its lowest. You might expect a drop in conception rates, so be extra vigilant with checking for returns.
The most susceptible time for sows to heat stress is 7–14 days post service. If she gets warm, try to keep her as cool as you can, using shades, wallows and sprinklers, and by ensuring ventilation systems are working efficiently.
Hot weather also affects growing pigsand can result in a 50g/d reduction in growth rates. So, get your preventative measures in place, to avoid the performance drops that the summer weather can lead to if you haven’t prepared.
AHDB Pork’s Top Tips
Ensure there are enough fans for the size and number of pigs; consider using supplementary fans for large pens which are reliant on natural ventilation. Clean and maintain your fans and check they are working properly – try using a smoke plume to monitor air movement.
Make sure there are sufficient drinkers in each pen and that they are all working properly. If in doubt, supply additional water in troughs. Remember, pigs can’t sweat but can keep cool if their skin is damp, provide areas of wet concrete or misters during hot periods.
Wallowing is the main method used by outdoor pigs to cool down. Make sure wallows are muddy and that they don’t dry out.
Sunburn is common. Make sure you provide shade for outdoor pigs so they can move out of direct sunlight.
Where possible, serve at either end of the day when it will be cooler and ensure that AI doses are kept in an insulated container (16–18°C) until required. Heat stress can affect a boar’s semen quality for up to eight weeks afterwards, record periods of hot weather on a calendar and if using on-farm collections, pay special attention to semen quality during this risk period.
Don’t wait until flies become a problem before you start thinking about them. Effective control is an integral part of maintaining high health and productivity and having a control system in operation also forms part of assurance standards.