Maintain performance through summer heat – Part 1

Posted on June 26, 2015 in Swine Performance
By Dr. Leah Gesing

Summer is upon us and with it comes characteristically higher market hog prices accompanied by lower average market weights.

To mitigate potential lost profits due to reduced harvest weights, it is important to prepare barns for the summer months by ensuring thermostats, fans, air inlets, sprinklers, and drip coolers are all in working order.

Other key factors in alleviating lost summer profits can sometimes be overlooked.  It is important to ensure that optimal conditions exist to allow pigs to consume maximum amounts of water and feed.  Providing optimal floor space per pig is another key factor in decreasing competition for feed and water.

Below are some important metrics to consider when raising pigs at any time of the year, but these factors are especially important during the hot summer months.

Water management
It is essential that pigs have access to an unlimited water supply at all times.  As ambient temperature increases, so does water consumption.  If a pig’s water intake is limited, this will translate into limited feed intake as well.  Water intake can be restricted by having too many pigs per water source, inadequate flow rate, incorrect water pressure, or improper positioning of the waterer within the pen.  The table below provides common water recommendations for wean to finish pigs.

Water recommendations1

Nursery (0-50 lb) Grow-finish (50 lb-market weight)
Daily water requirement (gal)2 1 3-5
Pigs per water source 10 10
Water flow rate (oz/min) 16 32
Water flow rate (L/min) 0.5 1
Water height (nipple) Equal to shoulder level of smallest pig in pen
Water pressure <20 PSI 15-40 PSI

1PIC Wean to Finish Handbook (2013).
21 gal = 3.8 L or 128 oz.

Feeder management
It is imperative to maximize feed intake during the summer months.  Pigs will be most likely to eat during the coolest parts of the day, so it is important to diligently manage feeders, including ensuring that feeders are full during the coolest times of the day.  To minimize competition and maximize feed intake, provide an adequate number of feeder holes per pig and make sure that feeders are appropriately sized.  Additionally, it is important to diligently monitor feeders and make feeder adjustments as necessary.  There can be a fine line between keeping feeders tightened to reduce feed wastage and limiting feed access.  Below is a table outlining common feeder recommendations.

Feeder recommendations1

Nursery (0-60 lb) Grow-finish (60 lb-market weight)
Bunk space per head (in)2 1.0 2.0
Pigs per 15-in feeder hole 16 8
Pigs per tube (tube feeders) 16 8
Pigs per wet/dry feeder hole 16 8
Pan coverage, % Day 0-7:  50
Day 7+:  20-40
Trough depth, in >10 >10
Lip height, in 4-5 4-5
Feeder width 1.1 x shoulder width of biggest pig

1PIC Wean to Finish Handbook (2013), Gonyou and Lou (2000), and Brumm (2015).
2Bunk space:  REcommend 15 in/pig (15-in feeder hole).

Stocking density
Stocking density is an especially important consideration during the summer months, and, if at all possible, it is best to decrease stocking density during this time.  Increasing floor space per pig allows pigs to better dissipate heat by lying down in an extended posture without touching pen mates.  Increased stocking density decreases growth rate, feed intake and feed efficiency.  The following table lists the floor space allowances per pig at various pig bodyweights that are required to maximize performance.

Floor space required to maximize performance1

Pig bodyweight (lb) Pen space/pig (sq. ft.)
30 2.0
60 3.2
90 4.2
120 5.1
150 5.9
180 6.7
210 7.4
240 8.1
270 8.8
300 9.4
330 10.0
360 10.6

1Gonyou et al. (2006).

Neglecting any of these common animal husbandry recommendations is likely to impair pig performance.  The Vita Plus swine nutrition team is available to help you with your swine management challenges. We want to work with you to help you obtain optimal performance and maximum profit for your pigs.

Editor’s note:  This article is the first of three articles related to wean-to-finish summer performance and management challenges.

About the author:  Dr. Leah Gesing is a Vita Plus swine technical sales and support specialist.  She earned her bachelor’s degree in animal science from Iowa State University.  She continued there to earn her master’s degree in animal physiology, studying on-farm factors affecting market hog transport losses.  She then went on to the University of Illinois to earn her Ph.D. in animal sciences.  While in school, Gesing was involved with numerous research projects, teaching experiences, internships, and international travel.  Specifically, she conducted applied research in swine genetics, health, management and reproduction with Dr. Mike Ellis.  Her Ph.D. project evaluated the effect of timing of OvuGel® administration on reproductive performance in gilts synchronized for estrus.

Category: Facility design
Heat stress
Swine Performance