Heat Stress in Pigs: What smallholders need to know

With temperatures rising during the summer months, it's important to understand how heat stress can affect your pigs, the warning signs to look out for, and effective measures to prevent and treat it.

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Why heat stress is a concern

Pigs are particularly susceptible to heat stress because they have few sweat glands and rely primarily on panting to cool down. High temperatures can lead to severe health problems, including reduced growth rates, decreased fertility, and in extreme cases, death. It not only impacts animal welfare but also reduces productivity and increases costs.


Provide adequate shade and ventilation: Ensure your pigs have access to shady areas and well-ventilated spaces. If you don’t have natural shade from trees, you could create an artificial structure instead.

Cool water supply: Always provide plenty of fresh, clean and cool water. Consider adding extra water troughs during hot weather or creating a wallow.

Adjust feeding times: Feed your pigs during the cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late evening, to maintain intakes and avoid the added metabolic heat produced during digestion.

Monitor stocking density: Avoid overcrowding, which can increase heat and humidity in confined spaces.

Warning signs and symptoms

Recognising the signs of heat stress early can prevent severe outcomes.

Watch out for:

  • Rapid breathing or panting.
  • Lethargy or reduced activity.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Reddening of the skin – especially around the ears and snout.
  • Trembling or muscle weakness.
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Treating heat stress

If you suspect a pig is suffering from heat stress, you must act quickly. Move the animal to a cooler area. Provide cool water and spray or sponge down the pig, focusing on the underside and legs where blood vessels are closer to the surface.

If symptoms continue or worsen, consult a vet quickly. Heat stress can lead to secondary complications requiring professional treatment too so keep a close eye on your animals.

Prioritising shade, hydration and appropriate cooling strategies and remaining vigilant for signs of distress, will ensure your pigs remain happy and healthy, even at the height of summer.

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