Small swine farm management of pigs in spring and summer

Pigs with homestead shelter. Photo by Casey Zangaro, MSU Extension

Helpful tips to keep your swine herd healthy in the spring and summer seasons.

Managing pigs on small swine farms during spring and summer involves several key considerations to ensure the well-being of the animals and optimize farm operations. Here are some tips for managing pigs during these seasons.

Changing temperatures, along with humidity and weather patterns throughout the spring and summer mean that pigs need reliable shelter. Some shelter should be provided during cooler nights and extreme weather events, but also shade from the sun since pigs do not have usable sweat glands. The housing should be sturdy and withstand the weather, as well as the daily wear and tear of use. Consider that some bedding may contribute to holding in heat rather than making the pig more comfortable. Use the animal’s behavior to guide whether to reduce bedding or leave it in place.

Water and feed should always be available for the pigs as they grow and adapt to the warmer weather. Water should be clean and accessible all the time. Pigs will increase their water consumption as it gets warmer. Be cautious when feeding pigs during the daytime heat; most pigs will consume feed rations in the morning or at night when it is cooler. Be sure to have feed available for the pigs during those times to decrease the risk of having lower feed consumption and, in turn, losing weight within your herd.

Conduct regular health checks as the temperatures rise to stay ahead of any emerging health issues. Heat stress can quickly become critical with pigs since they are prone to sunburn and cannot sweat like most livestock. Signs of heat stress include heavy panting, gaping mouth, lethargy, refusal to eat, red patches of skin, and difficulty moving. A vet should be called if this persists for a lengthy time; however, getting the pigs into a shady spot and getting water in them and on their underbelly as soon as possible should start relieving some of the symptoms.

If your pigs are in a pasture system, rotating them and preventing overgrazing are essential to keeping the herd and your pastures healthy. A deworming program should be utilized to keep pigs protected from internal and external parasites. Parasites will hinder the pig’s health and production. Plan on managing pastures to stay ahead of reseeding forages and possibly supplement the pigs for what nutrients they are not getting from the pasture.

Pest control and management will also be necessary for any environment where pigs are; keeping birds, rodents and other livestock out of the pigs’ space helps keep the herd healthy and disease-free.

Record keeping is creating and maintaining detailed records, such as feeding schedules, health observations, medications and treatments, manure management and deaths. This information can be valuable for planning and identifying patterns or trends.

If you are in a breeding program, spring and summer can be tricky times of year to keep the breeding herd content. Again, watch closely for heat stress, as this can critically alter the health of the sow and the piglets. Be prepared to assist in keeping the sows and gilts comfortable during the daytime heat. Plan breeding schedules for favorable weather conditions. Provide adequate facilities for farrowing, ensuring that sows have a relaxed, secure environment for giving birth. This may include providing cooling assistance like fans and sprinklers.

Since the weather conditions are more favorable for manure management during the summer, it is essential to keep GAAMP’s sustainable practices in mind. It is also important to remember how to properly dispose of and contain dead animals in the hot months.

By focusing on these aspects of pig management, small swine farms can promote the health and well-being of the animals while optimizing productivity during the spring and summer months. Regular observation and adaptation to changing conditions are crucial for successful pig farming.