It is that time of year again; the sun is shining, the days are longer, and the snow has melted away. Before we know it, the summer heat will also be here too but unfortunately, when it comes to raising pigs, the summer warmth means added heat stress and reduced growth performance when pigs are at their highest value. Reduced feed intakes is one of the main drivers of reduced growth performance in the summer months. From a nutrition perspective, the primary way to combat a pig’s reduced feed intake and maintain or improve growth performance is to use more nutrient dense diets in the summer months by increasing the amino acid and energy levels in them.
1. Usage of a Feed Additive
In certain situations, the usage of a feed additive may be warranted to help increase growth performance throughout the summer when heat stress occurs. As an example, the addition of tri-basic copper chloride throughout the finishing diets has consistently shown to result in higher hot carcass weights, average daily gain, and feed intake, which can be critical in the summer. Other feed additives, such as acidifiers have been shown to also improve growth performance by reducing the pH in the digestive system and improving nutrient utilization. With a multitude of feed additives on the market to choose from, it is crucial to understand the consistency of the expected growth response and the economic trade off from using the additive. To determine which feed additive works best for you, talk with your nutritionist.
2. Increase Total Diet Energy Levels
A key component to summer diets is increasing total diet energy levels. By adding fat, we can make diets more energy dense. The purpose of increasing the energy levels in the summer is to encourage the pigs to eat the same or a higher number of calories per day even though they are eating less pounds of feed due to the heat. The increased energy will result in improved average daily gain and feed efficiency.
3. Reduce Byproduct Levels
If your mill does not have the capability to add fat to the diet, don’t sweat it. Ask your nutritionist about reducing the dried distillers’ (DDGS) or byproduct levels of your diets for pigs targeted to market during the summer months. Although the use of DDGS or byproducts can help reduce diet costs, both are typically lower in energy and higher in fiber than corn. By increasing the corn in place of DDGS or byproducts in the diets, it will result in pigs having a higher average daily gain and higher feed intake as well.
The three tips above are a handful of strategies that a nutritionist can do to help summer performance. As everyone’s situation is different, the following needs to be considered when discussing your upcoming summer diet plans with your nutritionist: Are the summer markets strong? Will I be short on space in the summer if my pigs grow slower because of heat stress? Does the better performance from more expensive nutrient dense diets offset their cost? Once you and your nutritionist have a summer diet plan in place; sit back and enjoy the summer heat.