HEAT STRESS PREVENTION, SIGNS, SYMPTOMS & REMEDIES
Pigs are very sensitive to heat and humidity. Humidity can be harder on pigs than a dry heat. Most animals release excess heat by sweating or panting which is a natural cooling system. But pigs cannot release heat by sweating, which is quite opposite of the saying “I’m sweating like a pig!” Pigs also have small lungs for their body size, which makes panting ineffective. So their only cooling system requires external factors and our management. If the weather is hot, here are some steps to perform for the comfort and health of your pig.
The Remedy for Heat Stress is PREVENTION!
Shaded Pens – shade cloth works great & is economical (See Pen Temperatures).
Ventilation – make sure the air can circulation in the pen. Make sure there is a breeze through the pen.
Cool Water – Plenty of cool, clean water – change out if it becomes warm. Place in a cool area of the pen.
Fans with Misting System – Adding a fan with misters can lower the pen temperatures (See Pen Temperatures).
Mud Pool – create an area in the pen where water can create a pool. The pig will love laying in the cool water or mud.
Feed Early – Feed before the day heat & after 5 when the temperatures are cooler. Feeding a hot pig will not help to cool them down.
Watch the Weather Forecasts – Watching the weather will help you to determine possible heat stress days (78°F+) and make extra efforts to keep your pig cool. Optimum weather range is 61°F – 77°F.
Ice Cubes – If your pig is happy but warm, hand feed ice cubes as a treat and another way to lower internal body temperatures. NEVER physically apply ice to a pig that is currently in heat stress because it will send the pig into shock. This is only a non-emergency prevention step.
Work Late – Save your training times for the cooler evening hours!
Signs of Swine Heat Stress
Skin is Red, blotchy and hot to the touch
Stressed – Panting, looking distressed & stretched out
Fast Breathing – Elevated and rapid respiration rate
Vomiting – Loss of Appetite or Vomiting
Thirsty – Increased water consumption – which can lead to loss of electrolytes and diarrhea.
Weakness – Pig appears weak and lethargic, muscles are trembling
High Temperature – Rectal Temperature above 103.0°F
Remedies to Reduce Heat Stress
Shade– Shade the pig immediately from any direct sunlight. (See Pen Setup – Gates & Shelters 101for more information shading).
Temperature – Take the pig’s rectal temperature. Knowing the exact temperature will help to determine how many steps need to be performed.
Over 103.0°F – Perform several heat reducing steps and,
1. Re-take temperature in 15 minutes
2. Continue the steps until temperature is below 103.0°F.
Rising Temperature or Unchanged Temperature – If the temperature does not drop within 30 minutes or continues to rise, contact your advisor or vet for immediate assessment. Pigs do not last long in a sustained heat stress cycle.
Hose or Mist the Pig – If the temperature is not too severe (104.0°F & up). Carefully hose down your pig starting at the feet and working up. Spraying cold water on their back may be too shocking to their system, so work your way from the feet up gradually to their back.
Water Bucket – Offer water in a bucket. Clear, cool water is the number one remedy for heat reduction. If your area is experiencing a heat wave for extended days or weeks, add electrolytes to the water for extra hydration.
Add Misters and Fan – This will help to increase air flow and bring down the air temperature.
Add a Wet Towel / Shammy / Microfiber Cooling Rag – Wet the towel and lay it over the back. Re-wet and replace often.
Space – Make sure the pig has plenty of space to stretch out and relax. Do not overcrowd, they do not need the extra body heat from other pigs. Space creates air circulation.
Move Slowly – If you need to move your pig, move them slowly in a relaxed state. Rushing them will not lower their temperature or yours!
Work At it – Keep working at it. It will take a while to cool your pig down, and every step repeated will help.
Call the Vet – If these steps do not help to bring down your pigs temperature, there may be other issues that are impacting your pig. Call a vet for a physical exam and assessment.
- ½ gal Spray Bottle
- Misting Ring
- Water Bucket
- Shade Cloth
- Cooling Rags or Shammy Rags
- Digital Thermometer
By paying attention to your climate, your pen placement and your daily management of your pig, it should be fairly easy to manage heat. This is a foundational element in raising livestock. Lighter colored pigs are easier to see if they are heat stressed. But watch the dark colored pigs as their coloring can absorb more direct heat and is harder to see.