Heat stress in pigs

Identifying the signs of stress in pigs during periods of hot weather will aid in making proactive adjustments to management and handling practices.

As summer temperatures soar it is important to keep in mind that pigs can be vulnerable to heat stress. The reason for this is that the pig’s sweat glands are largely dormant which doesn’t allow them to cool themselves by sweating. Instead the pig uses the panting mechanism to maintain normal body temperature (101 - 103 degrees Farenheight). According to the National Pork Board – Transport Quality Assurance program, heat stress may occur in pigs when the pig’s body temperature rises above a level in which it cannot be controlled through the panting mechanism

Signs of stress in pigs include: Open-mouth breathing, vocalization, blotchy skin, stiffness, muscle tremors and the reluctance to move.

If pigs begin to express signs like these, allow them to rest. It is also helpful to gently sprinkle cool water on the pig. Do not pour large amounts of cold water on the pig as this may send the pig into shock.

Additionally, it is important to provide shade for pigs housed outside. A typical recommendation would be 4 square feet of shade per pig for pigs up to 100 lbs. and 6 square feet of shade per pig for pigs weighing over 100 lbs.

For additional management strategies on how to manage pigs during hot weather, view the following article: Management strategies to improve finishing pig performance during hot weather.