Heat warning: Check on pigs and people

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Even though most pork producers run operations where hogs are housed in buildings to protect them from the blazing sun, the excessive temperatures and humid conditions that have settled into the U.S. mid-section can still take a toll on pigs and people.

Since the pigs count on you for comforts and welfare, here are some tips for to keep pigs as cool as possible:

  • During this hot period, and really all summer long, be sure to check ventilation controls and fans a couple times each day.  Consider adding fans.
  • Check the outside of buildings to ensure that there are no obstructions to air flow, such as weeds.  
  • If your building uses cooling pads, make sure they’re clean and working properly.
  • See that your backup generator is functioning and ready to go. These extreme weather systems can pop up storms without much warning and you don’t want to face a power outage.
  • Test water lines throughout the building at various times of the day to ensure that  no pen or pig has a restricted water supply. Also, if water gets hot, pigs avoid drinking.
  • Consider adding additional water access via a trough if necessary.
  • For sows, consider feeding them during the evening. For growing and market hogs, check to be sure feeders are adequately full at night, when pigs are more likely to get up and eat.
  •  If you have overhead drippers to cool animals, check them to see that they’re working. If you sprinkle pigs, be careful not to use water that’s too cool and pour it around the head and snout as a sudden dousing on the back can shock the pig. Of course, with sprinkling, air movement is important for true cooling.
  • Move animals at night, including market hogs, when it’s cooler.

As for people, it’s important that you consider their needs, abilities, comfort and safety at this time.  

  • Increasing water consumption, taking breaks and cooling off are all basic requirements now.
  • Of course wearing light-colored, cotton clothing can help keep workers comfortable.  
  • Animals and people will both get cranky. Emphasize to workers the importance of being patient and moving slowly. Maybe even change work hours or some procedures until the heat wave passes.
  • Along those lines, animals that are typically docile could lash out or turn dangerous under such hot conditions, so workers need to be aware and cautious.  
  • Certainly if someone is showing signs of heat stress, that requires immediate attention.  USDA offers an online tool for symptoms and suggestions to avoid and address heat stress.

For additional ideas to help head off heat problems within pork operations, Mark Whitney, University of Minnesota Extension swine specialist, has put together some guidance, which you can find by clicking here.

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