With summer fast approaching, pig producers have a new set of management challenges. The hotter weather can reduce performance for finishing pigs as they reach market weight, says Dan McManus, DVM, Purina Animal Nutrition swine specialist.

“You can help minimize the risk with a few changes to your finishing barn routine during summer months,” McManus says.


Choose the Right Ventilation Settings

Managing barn ventilation is all about increasing airflow. Greater air movement helps pigs stay cool as outside temperatures rise. The goal is to move as much air as possible without creating drafts or stressing the pigs.

When picking set points for your ventilation system, remember you’re not setting the temperature for your barn — you’re setting the temperature at which you want your controller to operate. Make sure to base those set points on managing air quality, including humidity.

McManus offers the following guidelines for optimal summer temperature and ventilation settings:

  • Lower your set point to 62 degrees F by the time the pigs in your barn reach an average weight of 100 lb.
  • Keep your initial summer nursery temperature at 82 degrees F. By 70 days post-weaning, the optimal temperature is 64 degrees F.
  • Maintain humidity levels between 60% and 70% in wean-to-finish facilities.
  • Reduce your controller stage differential from 2 degrees F to 1.5 degrees F in the summer to account for the extra heat.

The University of Minnesota Extension swine team advises checking ventilation and cooling equipment before the heat of summer threatens your livestock. Every air inlet and fan should be cleaned to ensure that they’re functioning, and to prevent spreading dust and microorganisms across the barn when they’re turned on.


Adjust Timing of Sprinklers

In addition to proper ventilation, sprinklers play an important role in barn cooling systems. While it might seem like running sprinklers constantly would be best, it’s actually more effective to operate sprinklers at set intervals. Pigs experience more evaporative cooling as they dry off, so alternating wetting and drying is the best way to help them maintain ideal body temperature in the summer heat.

According to McManus, sprinklers should be set to come on at 18 to 20 degrees F above your set point after pigs reach an average weight of 100 lb.

Once temperatures rise to that level, turn sprinklers on for 1 to 2 minutes and then off for 20 to 30 minutes in a repeating cycle for the best cooling results, recommends University of Minnesota Extension specialists. Large water droplets are also preferred over misting, since mist will increase the barn’s humidity and decrease the pigs’ heat loss through evaporative cooling.

In order to tell when your pigs are dry, watch your slats, McManus says. The water on the barn floor will dry at the same rate as the water on your pigs, but it’s easier to see it on the floor. This will help you gauge how quickly your pigs dry and allow you to adjust drying interval time accordingly.


Minimize Feed and Water Outages

Increased humidity during the summer often causes feed to bridge in feeders. To prevent suffering a 24-hour feed outage, check feeders and augers for bridging twice a day. In the hotter months, pigs will eat more at night when it’s cooler outside, so check feeders in the evening to ensure pigs have plenty to eat when they’re at their hungriest. You should also have 50% pan coverage to encourage optimal feed intake from your pigs.

In addition to feeders, McManus advises checking waterers more often as the days get warmer. Pigs’ water intake can increase by as much as 50% to 70% per day in the summer, and providing them with adequate water will help them achieve their best levels of growth and productivity.

If you take the time to properly set your ventilation system, adjust sprinkler timing, and minimize feed and water outages, your pigs will be able to perform at their best, in spite of the heat.