Farmer Focus: Heatwave could require special lactating sow diet

We’re now into our sixth week with little or no rain and temperatures in the high twenties. These high temperatures are starting to have an accumulative effect on us and the pigs.

I can understand why people in Mediterranean countries have a siesta during the hottest part of the day. We are all starting to feel worn out and it is maybe something we need to think of doing if this weather continues.

The pigs’ welfare is not suffering because of the high temperatures, but they are clearly not performing as well as we would like. The finishers in the naturally ventilated straw yards are not growing as well, as they tend to spend most of the day laying around rather than being at the feeders.

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I have found that if I run a tap on the floor for half an hour the pigs create an indoor wallow that they have great fun in while cooling off.

The younger pigs from weaning to 30kg are actually looking very good – although the temperature has read 30C degrees and more outside, they are in specialist new well-ventilated buildings with big air flows.

The lactating sows in our newer farrowing accommodation are also doing well, despite the high temperatures, because of the good air movement achieved in modern buildings.

The sows in our older, naturally ventilated farrowing rooms are blowing a bit on really hot, windless days, though fortunately we have had a north-easterly wind most days, which has helped keep them cool.

The lactating sows are on ad-lib feed while suckling and, as they are mostly rearing 13 pigs a litter, you have to get as much feed into them as possible, otherwise they will lose condition and future litters and fertility will be affected.

I have always thought autumn infertility is caused by sows losing condition because of the hot summer months. This is probably why outdoor pig producers can suffer from autumn infertility worse than us indoor producers.

There could be a strong case for a “super” lactating diet for the hottest three months of the year to counter this condition loss in times of reduced appetite.