Blog: How to avoid heat stress in pigs

Thursday, 16 June 2022

Heat stress impacts growth rates, farrowing rates, and litter sizes so it’s important to plan and be prepared for hot weather so you can minimise the risks. Are you and your team prepared?

Heat stress affects the breeding and finishing performance of pigs. When sows and gilts are dropped out of breeding batches, it results in rolled returns going into sow groups. This puts pressure on the farrowing and weaning facilities, as well as the finishing operations, and affects the daily routines of the stock person. This Interruption to regular pig production disrupts both pig flow and cash flow and can result in periods of lower sales and inefficient use of buildings.

Image of staff member Andrew Palmer

Andrew Palmer

Knowledge Exchange Relationship Manager (East) - Pork

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People generally think that pigs could become affected by heat stress in the heights of summer. However, increasing evidence points to late spring and early summer as the time when pigs are most likely to be affected by it. For example, random hot days that occur as early as Easter can result in heat stress.

Stockpeople should be prepared for warm, sunny weather as early as March. Here are some points to consider to help reduce the risk of heat stress in your pigs.

  • Analyse the production data for your unit to search for seasonal trends
  • Ensure the unit teams have an in-depth understanding of measures taken when tackling potential heat stress on the farm
  • Plan for extra gilt services from spring and step up towards the early summer as they seem to be less affected then
  • Outdoor farms should prepare wallows and shades in spring. Indoor farms should clean, service, and recalibrate ventilation equipment in buildings
  • Outdoor farms should regularly service their bowser and valves, as they are vital areas to focus on. Check how long it takes to refill the bowser so you can plan if you need extra water – during the hot days, a quick refill is important, especially if a member of staff needs to work during the weekend
  • Carry out important routine tasks early in the morning when the temperature is cooler
  • Watch out for regular and irregular returns, rotate boars, and keep boar in contact with early pregnancy groups
  • Boars also need extra attention as heat affects the semen quality and quantity. It takes several weeks to get back to normal
  • Sunstroke can lead to team members being off sick. Look after yourself and your team. Use sun cream, wear hats and drink lots of water to prevent dehydration