Taking the heat off sows

Animals, just like people, can suffer from heat stress in high temperature environments. When farm animals are exposed to heat above temperatures they can tolerate, it can have significant impact on their health. 

The condition is particularly challenging on pig farms in tropical countries, such as the Philippines. In this rapidly developing country, the swine sector is a large contributor to the economy and home to around 12.5 million pigs. 

Our colleagues  in the Philippines recognised that if farmers could make adjustments to swine housing to mitigate high temperatures, it would make a significant difference to pig well-being and performance, particularly in the hottest months of April and May.  
 

The animal well-being challenge

Temperatures in the Philippines on average hit between 25°C and 28°C but in April and May, the mercury can soar as high as 35°C. It is an uncomfortable thought when the ideal temperature for pigs is between 21°C and 24°C. 

The impact of these high temperatures is significant on swine health across its life stages. 

“Piglets often drop weight, sows suffer severe infertility and pigs fall lame as a result of poor feed intake throughout the hot months of March to May. Lactating sows can also pick up urinary tract infections due to low water intake,” says Michael Del Rosario, animal well-being champion and Swine and Poultry Portfolio Manager for Bayer Animal Health in the Philippines. 

“We knew that an intervention was needed to help cool these sows and increase their well-being.”   

Modifying the environment is the most effective way to mitigate the effects of heat stress1, through better ventilation, insulation and housing. But we knew we could go further than that – changing feed, adding supplements and more effective monitoring of the animals were also key areas farmers could easily address to relieve heat stress symptoms. 
 

Our solution

We wanted to inspire more swine professionals to take action against heat stress as a means to enhance the well-being and health of pigs throughout the country.  

We embarked on a national roadshow of lectures at key industry events to help swine professionals advance well-being and help sows thrive. A series of experts addressed the key challenges of modern sows and how best to provide them with an optimal environment. 

Further to that, we organized a Swine Symposium, which addressed the most important health and well-being topics in swine, presented by noted experts. Here, we also introduced our innovative ‘BCS SowDition’ smartphone app, which helps to make sow body condition score monitoring easier, enabling swine farmers to pick up on heat stress before it debilitates the animal. 

The symposium was complemented by our ‘Treat Sows Well’ campaign, which encompassed the wide distribution of educational brochures and reminder advertisements in local trade magazines to prompt farmers to take care of heat stressed sows during the hot season.  


 

The result 

Our seminars and symposium were well attended and swine professionals have responded very positively. The campaign succeeded in raising a huge amount of awareness not only about the gravity of heat stress in pigs, but it also highlighted the practical actions swine professionals can take to address this globally important well-being challenge. 

Michael adds: “As climate change continues to drive up global temperatures, heat stress is only going to become an even more important issue. The more education and action we can take across the world, and across species, the better chance our animals have of living happier and healthier lives.”

 

Edith J Mayorga et al. Heat stress adaptations in pigs