East Anglia’s outdoor pig units ‘under pressure’ as heatwave continues
Outdoor pig units are under “significant pressure” as the UK heatwave continues, an East Anglian industry expert has warned.
Bury St Edmunds-based pig consultant Peter Crichton said the hot weather was proving a headache for pig producers, who were doing what they could to stop the animals getting too hot.
“Although many of us are enjoying the wonderful summer weather, it brings a whole heap of challenges for farmers especially as far as outdoor pig breeders are concerned,” he said.
Animal welfare was top priority for the industry, he said, with staff facing additional pressure because of the conditions. They are often operating on rock-hard ground in hot, dry and dusty conditions, especially when moving sites, as well as shouldering extra work trying to keep the pigs cool. Sows are producing less milk for their piglets, and fertility rates are expected to be down. Feed and straw costs are also on the rise.
“The British pig industry is extremely proud of its high welfare standards and the need to produce pig meat at a sustainable price, but animal welfare has always been a high priority,” he said.
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“Unfortunately the recent scorching temperatures have put outdoor pig units in particular under significant pressure.
“During the hot weather, many of the sows tend to sleep outside and although many of the farrowing and dry sow arcs used are insulated, they can still become very hot during long periods of hot weather despite having rear doors removed and being well ventilated.”
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In order to combat the problem, producers are creating wallows where pigs can make their own form of ‘sun lotion’ from mud and water to protect them and some units are also providing sun screens or nets which are strung between the dry sow arcs.
But farmers also face increased fire risks from standing crops of bone-dry cereals and fast-moving straw fires, he said.
“Feeding often now takes place in the twilight hours before the sun gets too hot, but weaning weights have dropped due to early new farrowed sows not having enough milk available for the piglets and extra care and attention is needed in the farrowing department with extra water availability during the current spell of hot weather,” he said.