As temperatures rise in the summer months, proper sow management is critical as producers work to achieve 30 pigs per sow per year, as reduced feed intake caused from heat stress directly diminishes sow body condition and rebreeding success.
Dr. Gawain Willis, director of nutritional services for Land O’Lakes Purina Feed LLC, said that elevated ambient temperatures make achieving high feed intake in lactation a real management challenge. “If sows do not maintain high nutrient intake, they will lose too much weight in lactation and may fail to rebreed quickly,” said Willis. “This can lead to high sow culling rates, which can mean too many sows are culled before they return sufficient income to cover their original investment costs. If sows that lose too much weight do breed back on time, future litter size may be compromised.”
Added attention to temperature control in facilities can help manage these challenges, and sow feed intake can be also maintained by adjusting the ration. Willis said he recommends decreasing the fiber content of the ration and/or increasing levels of added fat. These two ration changes lower the heat produced by the sow during digestion, thus lowering her body temperature and the amount of heat she has to dissipate and helping to maintain consumption. Heat stress can also be prevented by routinely feeding sows during the coolest parts of the day. “Make sure sows are full-fed and that they have feed available from late evening to early morning,” said Willis, adding that sow movement should be avoided during the day. “Sows are most effective in dissipating heat during overnight hours when the air is cooler.”