14 June 1996

Keeping em cool in summer one of the paths to success

Careful management of outdoor pigs in summer is vital to maintain performance.

Jonathan Riley reports

KEEPING pigs cool, maintaining milk production and encouraging sows to stay in huts are the keys to successful summer management on outdoor units.

So says Lewis Skilton assistant manager at Range Farm, Rendlesham Estate, Suffolk, a 580-sow specialist breeder unit.

"Heat stress reduced farrowing rates by up to 12% and average piglet weaning weights by up to 0.9kg last year," says Mr Skilton.

During the colder months the herd averages 8kg weaning weights at 21 to 26 days.

"But last summer averages fell to 7.1kg. That is still well within our contract with Suffolk-based BQP, which stipulates a 6kg minimum, but it is an unwelcome loss of production."

Main reason for the slower growth is that the sow is outside the hut away from her piglets. It is importan to manage the sow so that she remains in the hut.

Good observation is vital because the sow is more likely to farrow outdoors in warm weather. Small paddocks with eight sows in each, enable Mr Skilton to keep a close eye on all sows.

"As the sow approaches farrowing we ensure that there is the right amount of clean, fresh straw in her hut. Provide too much straw, and the sow will be too hot. Too little, and she will be unable to nest in the hut and will farrow outside," says Mr Skilton.

"The environment in the hut must be correct and ventilation is important."

As temperatures increase the back of the huts – which face into the prevailing wind – are opened to encourage good air flow.

"Here, one side of the back of the hut can be opened up. This makes an ideal shade so we dont construct shades which are damaged easily by sows.

Because paddocks are small, huts can be located close to water troughs so the sow never has to move far away from the huts and her piglets.

Water troughs in dry sow and service paddocks are allowed to overflow so that pigs can create wallows.

"Maintaining a water supply to the pig is essential to keep feed intakes up and maintain sufficient milk production.

"All troughs are inspected twice a day because sows and boars like to lie in them and they take mud and small stones into the trough which can clog valves. Water pressure must also be kept up to ensure that troughs refill sufficiently quickly for all pigs to drink at will and therefore maintain feed intakes," says Mr Skilton.

At Range Farm the lactation diet is fed in pencils rather than rolls during the summer." The ground is drier and there is less feed loss.

, and a smaller pencil size allows the sow to break it down more effectively, boosting intakes," says feed compounder Bibbys Jim Thody.

"Matching feed levels to milk yield by a process of step feeding as lactation progresses is vital in the summer. Overfeeding must be avoided because excess milk in the udder and heat combine to cause mastitis," he adds.

&#8226 Encourage sows to stay in huts

&#8226 Provide muddy wallows

&#8226 Maintain water supplies

&#8226 Avoid over-fat sows

All water troughs are checked twice a day because sows and boars like to lie in them and take in mud and stones which can clog valves.

Lewis Skilton:"Paddocks are kept small and huts located near water sources so sows never move far from piglets."