Our climate is changing. Periods of heat stress for farm animals will increase in frequency and/or in length. This will - among other things - affect the welfare and production capacity in swine production. In previous articles we have reviewed facts about the effects of heat stress on pigs as well as the problems it causes.
Read part 1 of this series: 'Facts about heat stress in swine' >>
Read part 2 of this series: 'Heat stress problems in swine' >>
If rebuilding the barns to include air conditioning, fans and sprinklers is not an option, there are other things you can do to help the pigs to cope with heat stress.
Support: plenty of cool and clean drinking water
Animals drink approximately twice as much as they eat and when feeling unwell they stop eating before they stop drinking. Providing clean cool drinking water at all times really helps them. Warm temperatures increase the growth rate of unwanted bacteria and other microorganisms. Pay extra attention to the water quality. Organic acids have shown to inhibit unwanted bacteria. Electrolytes can also be supplied via the water if needed.
Support: make smart adjustments to feeding times
Avoid feeding during the hottest period of the day, as animals are more likely to consume feed when it’s cooler. Feed small frequent meals to stimulate feed intake. Increase the fat content, reduce crude protein and assess the fiber quality of the diet. Fat metabolism generates less endogenous heat than metabolizing protein and fiber fermentation in the large intestine. Avoid feeding excess protein to reduce the metabolic heat production but pay attention to the amino acid profile and content to fulfill the dietary need for the pig.
Support: clever use of feed formulation and additives
As stated above, heat stress may lead to reduced intestinal integrity which increase the risk of antigens entering the body and causing inflammatory responses and secondary infections. To support intestinal integrity and repair, feed additives such as butyric acid sources and anti-oxidants such a vitamin E and vitamin C, selenium and betaine can be supplied via the feed. The dietary electrolyte balance deserves some extra attention during periods of heat stress to correct electrolyte imbalances.