Pork producers, like most farmers, are reckoning with sweltering heat. U.S. temperatures are increasingly hotter for longer. When temperatures rise over 77° F, swine store less protein, which impacts farmers’ bottom line and future profitability.
The good news is the American pork industry has managed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 21% during the last three decades, helping prevent some of the worst predictions for the future. However, there’s still a need to prepare for more summer days that are inhospitable to pig productivity. This requires an emphasis on solutions that keep pigs cool, inside and out.
Can Acadian Kelp™ for pigs provide a solution? First, let’s look at how intense heat works against pork productivity and then see how brown seaweed can contribute to your heat stress solutions.
How Heat Stress in Pigs Harms Your Operations
There’s a narrow climate range where pigs flourish. Boars and sows prefer temperatures between 50° F to 70° F while newborns and nursing pigs can handle temperatures close to 85° F. When the heat pushes beyond what’s optimal for their bodies, swine start to struggle, eating less and breathing harder.
Pigs under heat stress also build less muscle mass. This is in part because heightened temperatures trigger an immune-system response in swine and prompt them to produce an excess of insulin. Since insulin uses the amino acids (protein building blocks) pigs need to build muscle mass, they fail to reach the size and body composition of animals raised in cooler climates. The fact that pigs reduce their feed intake during heat stress means they’re also less likely to replenish those lost proteins.
That doesn’t even account for the impact on pig fertility. Pregnant sows farrowing during hot days tend to give birth to diminished litters, which grow at a slower rate. Additionally, this next generation of heat-stressed pigs produces fewer, lower-quality eggs and sperm than those born in cooler climates. This creates a sort of generational trauma that follows swine lineage. In short, every second counts when fighting the effects of heat stress.
Using Cooling Methods and Seaweed to Help Pigs Fight Heat Stress
As global temperatures rise, the pork industry has adapted. buildings and housing to keep pigs cooler. The combination of shaded structures, ventilated buildings, misters, wet pads, and other techniques can help pigs lower their body temperatures during high heat. Yet only addressing external factors still puts pigs at risk of overheating.
Studies have shown that modern pigs produce 12.4% to 35.3% more heat than genetic lines in the 1980s. More lowering the threshold for heat stress, this preexisting factor can result in heat stroke or premature death, if not addressed.
One way to reduce the heat production of pigs is through dietary supplementation. Here’s where seaweed has a part to play. For example, the prebiotics found within Ascophyllum nodosum seaweed can help to cultivate healthy gut microbiomes in pigs, enhancing feed digestibility and reducing the energy created to absorb key nutrients.
With that information in mind, a study on 17 Landrace and Large White sows over 60 days showed how a seaweed dietary supplement helped them handle increased heat stress. The results demonstrated several insights:
- Both the rectal and skin temperatures of the seaweed-fed sows was lower than the control group.
- The piglets of sows fed seaweed prior to farrowing were larger than the control group.
Since rising temperatures are unavoidable, more farmers are going to need to resort to a complex array of tactics that can help lower livestock’s body temperature and keep up their resilience. If seaweed is part of that equation, they might also be able to lower the cost of other supplements—making every dollar count and every pig more productive.
Are you looking to learn more about how to fight heat stress in pigs? Reach out to the Acadian Kelp team to discuss how seaweed feed supplements provide results.