Heat stress: implementing an effective management strategy for monogastric animals
Periods of high heat, particularly during the summer, affect the comfort of the animals, which are exposed to heat stress. This stress affects the physiology of the animals: their body temperature, their respiratory rate and their water consumption increase sharply. This often leads to a decrease in feed consumption and performance of the animals.
Heat stress must be managed by a multifactorial approach with a combination of adapted breeding practices and nutritional strategies.
Read more : Article – Impacts of heat stress on livestock
I – Assessing and anticipating heat stress
Generally, the Temperature and Humidity Index (THI) is the most reliable measure of heat stress in animals. This index combines both temperature and humidity. With the same temperature, the higher the relative humidity, the higher the THI.
The intensity of heat stress varies with temperature and humidity.
Monitoring and anticipating changes in this indicator will enable preventive actions to be taken to reduce the thermal discomfort of the animals and the associated drop in performance.
- Assess the risk of immediate heat stress using the THI indicator and thresholds defined by species and physiological stages.
- Anticipate with the risk forecasts for the next 5 days to take the necessary preventive measures.
- Estimate the performance losses associated with these heatwaves and the resulting economic consequences.
II – Preparing your poultry farm for hot weather
To prepare your poultry farm for the summer, specific controls and actions can be initiated to ensure a smooth transition. This preparation should be carried out, if possible, in a empty building and in dry weather.
Sensors and cooling systems
- Check temperature and humidity sensors and alarms for proper operation.
- Test cooling systems, misters or pad cooling systems if available.
- Ensure that the air intake is always on the cooler side of the building and check the ventilation rates and air circuits (in dynamic ventilation).
- Check that air outlets or extractors are not blocked or clogged.
- Prepare and test, if necessary, the air blowers.
- Ensure continuous watering, preferably with fresh water.
- Check the flow of the water circuit for possible line blockage.
- Plan frequent purges of lines to ensure water renewal.
- Ensure that the disinfection plan is properly followed to avoid bacterial growth, which is increased by high temperatures.
- Keep a stock of specific nutritional products for water supplementation (electrolytes, natural antioxidants, etc.) in anticipation of hot weather.
Hydration of animals is key during hot weather.
In addition, these measures should be accompanied by a specific feeding strategy combining heat stress specific formulation and supplementation as well as adapted feeding practices.
III – Anticipating the summer season in pig farms
The onset of the first heat is a good time to carry out a few specific checks on the farm:
- Checking the capacity of air inlets (cleaning, blocking and operation of all hatches) as well as extractions and the correct operation of fans and sensors.
- Misting systems can be tested to avoid harmful failures during heatwaves.
- It is also essential to check that the water flow rate of the drinking troughs.
The use of misting systems is common in hot weather.
Particular attention should be paid in the farrowing pen. As the suckling sow is particularly sensitive to heat stress, check the positioning of heat lamps: they should be kept away from the sows’ heads or even removed.
Focus: for optimal hydration
A 10% loss of body water leads to death in pigs, while the body can draw more from its proteins and lipids.
The heavier the pigs, the greater the increase in water consumption as the temperature rises: sufficient access to fresh water must be maintained within the number of animals per water delivery system should be respected, especially during finishing period.
Checking the flow rate of waterers is particularly recommended in the summer. In a soup system, it is recommended to distribute an extra water meal in the late afternoon (the hottest time of the day, when the animals drink the most).
In the maternity area, a drinking system outside the trough allows clean water to be always available, while avoiding the need to empty the trough.
As with all livestock, these measures must be accompanied by an appropriate feeding strategy.