Temperature control and hog barn ventilation plays a vital role in creating the ideal environment for hog production. Pigs don't have the functional sweat gland that other species use to cool down, so extreme heat can lead to higher animal mortality and a significant impact on productivity. Heat stress also directly impacts daily weight gain, feed conversion efficiency, and can lead to poor growth rates, reduced milk production and impaired fertility. Many times, the effects go unnoticed until the impacts have already occurred. A producer may not see any issues in the first day or two - you may see panting, for example, around day three of the hogs beginning to overheat, but over time, the long term impact of severe heat can become detrimental.
How to recognize signs of heat stress in hogs
There are three primary behaviors to keep an eye on - panting, decreased feed intake and increased water consumption.
Panting: When hogs get overheated, panting is one of the only ways they have to transfer internal heat. It’s often an early sign of overheating in pigs.
Reduced feed intake: Hogs just won’t eat as much during a heat stress event. This reduction in feed intake will show up in a less than ideal feed efficiency and lower weight gain.
Increased water consumption: The excess water consumed when a hog gets overheated, can also cause problems, including lost electrolytes, urinary tract issues.
Heat stress can also impact the animal’s immune system, making hogs more susceptible to diseases.
How to Maintain the Ideal Hog Environment
Technology – such as controllers – help to create and maintain the ideal hog environment. With the right technology, you’ll be able to conveniently monitor multiple barns as well as notice changes in the barn environment, increased water consumption and a decrease in feed intake. Technology doesn’t replace the need to walk your barns and see how your pigs are doing, technology helps supplement visual inspection.
Taking advantage of the modern technologies to help you control your barn’s ventilation system is not just about spending money on new systems - it’s about keeping the systems that you have in good working order. You take care of the systems in your body. You take care of the systems in your car. So it’s important to keep your ventilation in order as well.
Hog Environment Quick List
- Make sure your hog barn shutters are clean.
- Blow the dust out of your fans.
- Clean your air inlets.
- Evaluate your actuators.
- Ensure your curtains are opening and closing properly.
- Tighten fan belts.
- Make sure your evaporative cooling system is clean.
Finally - be aware of the weather forecast, and plan ahead with a strategy to protect your pigs from high temperatures. Have your fans, shutters and other cooling system components ready so that if hot weather is in route, your pigs can stay cool and at their highest levels of productivity.