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Keeping the heat off your pigs
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Keeping the heat off your pigs

Hog barn fans

Fans are seen from the exterior of a hog barn on the Leon Sheets farm in Ionia, Iowa. A U of M study is examining the pathogens in fan filters trap.

As summer approaches and the temperatures increase, it is time to begin adjusting swine facilities to manage warmer weather.

“May is the best time to begin changing over your swine barn,” said Kevin Rath, AGCO Automated Production expert in Kansas. “Before the real heat sets in.”

Basically, it is just doing the reverse of effecting winter measures, he said. Remove insulation and the tunnel curtain and unblock the fans. Then, check your equipment to insure it is functioning.

Rath suggests checking to make sure all the breakers are on and the fan switches activate properly. Inspect cooling cells and mist sprayers and lubricate any moving parts.

“Most of this work can be done by the producer,” he said. “Anything more complicated, I would suggest calling a technician.”

Keeping swine comfortable is very important, Rath said. If animals are overheated they will decrease their food intake, weight will be lower and barn turns will not be as quick. They could also die due to high temperatures, he said.

Excessive heat raises the pigs’ temperature and can cause heat stroke. It also stifles the air and could cause suffocation. Ventilation is the key, he said.

“You’re moving air, not lowering the temperature,” Rath said. “Pigs are ‘respirers’ not perspirers.”

While humans will condition the air to cool themselves, pigs need to have air flow to remove body heat. To achieve maximum comfort, Rath suggests using ventilation fans at the end of a tunnel. The air can be moved through a series of cooling cells – wetted cardboard pads – to increase the cooling affect.

A misting system can also be utilized. This applies water to the pigs and helps them feel cooler. There is a trade-off, Rath warns. If it is 95 degrees outside, the air will move but the mist will increase the humidity. Producers need to be aware of this factor.

“Optimizing animal comfort will maximize animal productivity,” Rath said.

AGCO offers a way to easily manage the atmospheric operations in producers’ barns. Through the GSIEdge portal producers can monitor and manage ventilation, cooling, heating, watering and even lighting in real time. It is cloud-based and can be accessed from a phone, laptop or tablet, he said.

“Edge integrates all of the above and animal weight data, as well,” Rath said.

Jon Burleson can be reached at  

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Jon Burleson is the Midwest Messenger reporter, based in eastern Nebraska. Reach him at

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