Stress also has major implications on the overall health of production animals, with negative implications for both producer and consumer, and the approaching summer heat is always cause for pork producers to worry about the additional challenges their animals may face due to heat stress.
“Respiratory rates begin to increase around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and with high humidity, it becomes difficult for pigs to find relief from the heat on their own,” said Russell Gilliam, United States swine business manager for Alltech.
When pigs become agitated from stress, one of the first things affected is their eating habits, and though stress can not be completely avoided, Gilliam has provided some quick tips to help recognize and reduce heat stress, as well as the effects that result from it.
When pigs eat less, they convert less feed into muscle, reducing average daily gain and potentially increasing their days to market. Reduced feed consumption also opens the door for other health challenges and ultimately additional costs for producers.
Some of Gilliam’s tips include:
-Reducing instances of large swings in temperature in the barn.
-Ensuring each pig has enough space and ventilation.
-Providing pigs with unlimited access to fresh and cool drinking water.
-Moving, transporting, and working pigs early in the day.
-Tailoring diets to include technologies that support pigs during stress.
Studies have shown that providing pigs a diet that offers a combination of organic acids, electrolytes, enzymes and probiotics can support young animals during times of stress, as organic acids support probiotic growth in the gut, and enzymes can help enhance intake and digestibility. Electrolytes help provide additional support by keeping the animal hydrated, especially in times of heat stress.
“A combination of technologies in the pig’s feed can work quickly to lower the pH of the water, as water is the major component in reducing stress and increasing feed intake,” said Gilliam. “Depending on the type of water and the target level for pH, these technologies can work on their own or with a combination of other ingredients to help optimize the gut environment.”