Cooler temperatures help light weight pigs make weight at fair

The pigs you’re taking to your county fair maybe growing faster than normal this summer.

As county fairs are occurring throughout Michigan, thousands of young people are preparing their pigs for exhibition. Diet rations are being checked, hair is being clipped and pigs are being walked as often as possible.  While all of these things are normal fair-season protocol, you may find a surprise when your pig steps onto the scale.  Normally, June and July bring warm and sometimes downright hot temperatures that can really slow down the feed intake and growth rate of pigs. However, as you are well aware, this summer has brought much cooler average temperatures than normal in Michigan.

According to Michigan State University Extension, youth who have raised pigs before know that climbing temperatures usually make it difficult for pigs to gain weight. When it is hot outside, animals do their best to regulate their body temperature. Pigs for instance are not able to sweat like humans do, so one way they cool off in the summer is by finding a nice mud hole or other cool area near by. Mud helps to cool their skin and keep their internal body temperature in check. Another way pigs reduce their body temperature is by limiting the amount of food they eat. On particularly hot days many animals, and humans, will not be hungry, and therefore, will not eat as much. This is because eating a big meal and filling our stomachs increases our body temperature.  Think about it, when it is really hot outside, do you feel like eating a big plate of spaghetti?  Probably not, and pigs have a similar response and don’t feel like eating much either. With the cooler temperatures Michigan has had this summer it has caused animals to continue eating without worry of becoming too hot. This has caused pigs to grow a little faster than what they would during normal summer temperatures which means your pigs may be a little heavier than you anticipate.

If you have access to a scale, it is always encouraged to weigh your pigs before fair. Knowing your pig’s weight will help you know how to manage its diet to ensure your pig weighs-in within the appropriate weight range and at the weight that is best for your particular pig to be successful.

If you typically have light weight pigs that just barely make weight – then chances are this summer has helped you. If you typically find yourself tipping the scales on the day of weigh-in with pigs that are at the maximum weight, be sure to know your pig’s weight and understand the impact temperature has on feed intake and growth in order to best manage your pig before fair.

For information on MSU Extension, 4-H Youth Development and the animal science programs, visit the Michigan 4-H animal science page.

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