Dealing with drought and evading heat stress in swine

Top tips from across the globe on how to manage high temperatures on farm, how to prevent and treat heat stress in pigs and how to manage water shortages during a drought.
calendar icon 2 August 2018
clock icon 10 minute read

• Recycled waste water from the barns and drinkers can be used to create wallows and use in sprayers as long as the herd is free from transmissible disease.

• Drip water systems and wallows reduce the need for sprayers and misters, and use much less water.

When washing barns, remove solid waste and pre-soak the flooring to reduce water required to remove tough dirt. Using hot water also improves debris removal so reduces water required.

• When moving between pens to distribute water into troughs, use a bucket to catch any water in between pens to prevent wastage.

To keep water cool and clean... keep water storage and water troughs in the shade, and use blocks of ice or frozen tubs of water to bring the water temperature down and reduce evaporation.

One top tip: Make an effort to maintain and repair all water storage, piping systems and drinkers throughout the year to prevent water wastage.

Many thanks to Michaela Giles, Efua Okai, Glenneis Kriel, Ian Nkala and Liz Shankland for their top tips on managing heat stress and drought in pig herds.

Title image: Tedfold Cottage Farm

Figure 1
Figure 1

sub>Thermoneutral zones based on weight of pig and floor type © The Pig Site

"Sprinkling water in one- to two-minute intervals every 20 to 30 minutes allows moisture to evaporate off the pig’s skin before wetting and starting the cooling process over again, and is more effective than leaving waterers on continuously."

-Dr Mark Whitney, Assistant Extension Professor at the University of Minnesota Extension-

"Provide fresh, cool (or tepid) water in appropriately-sized troughs. Piglets have to be able to reach the water and preferably not be able to tip the trough up. Big pigs = big troughs, and little pigs = shallower troughs. Also, if younger piglets try to drink from a big trough they could fall in and not be able to get out."

-Michaela Giles, APHA and author of The Commuter Pig Keeper-
Keeping both sows and piglets in temperature-controlled, shady conditions is critical during farrowing and weaning as both mother and offspring can overheat quickly
Keeping both sows and piglets in temperature-controlled, shady conditions is critical during farrowing and weaning as both mother and offspring can overheat quickly

"Control supplementary heating in the farrowing house. This should only be necessary for the first 12 hours after farrowing depending on the piglets; if you have dimmers – use them or replace with lower wattage bulbs. Creep areas should be covered and insulated to ensure that heat loss from the creeps does not overheat the sows. To help keep sows cool it may be helpful to wet the sows' necks with cool water; however, ensure piglets do not get wet."

-AHDB Pork-

"Infections that raise a boar’s body temperature, or localised infections that raise the temperature of the scrotum and testes, will also result in changes in semen quality for up to eight weeks, similar to those that occur after boars are exposed to environmental heat stress. Maintain close monitoring of boars using a thermometer and visual checks on a daily basis during periods of high temperatures."


Emily Houghton

Editor, The Pig Site

Emily Houghton is a Zoology graduate from Cardiff University and was the editor of The Pig Site from October 2017 to May 2020. Emily has worked in livestock husbandry, and has written, conducted and assisted with research projects regarding the synthesis of welfare and productivity of free-range food species.

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