Heat stress

Dr. Bruno Silva at the Banff Pork Seminar: The Impact of Temperature Change or Heat Stress on the Feeding of High Productivity Sows

The Banff Pork Seminar, held from January 9 to 11 this year, was once again a great success, as much for the beauty of the site as the quality of the presentations and speakers. Year after year, this event remains essential for Canadian producers and increasingly draws stakeholders from around the world.

Dr. Bruno Silva Reveals Global Warming’s Cost to Pig Farms

This year, several presentations stood out, including that of Dr. Bruno Silva from the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil.

The latter spoke to the delegates on his favorite subject: the effect of global warming on the performance of pig farms. According to the data, the cost of heat stress in 2023 only for Brazil represents losses of around hundreds of million for the industry and the assessment for the USA would be between 1.9 and 2.7 billion (US) in the swine, cattle, and poultry environments. Temperature increases impact every continent.

Surface temperature

Heat Stress Impact on Pigs

Without going into details, the effect of intense heat is felt at several levels, including the intestinal integrity of the pig, reducing protein digestibility, among others.

Heat stress at the end of gestation affects the birth weight of piglets as well as the growth performance of pigs until the slaughterhouse (Table Adapted from Liu et al., 2021).

chart heat stress

Other consequences, better known, are the effect of hot days on the reproductive performance of sows and mortalities near parturition.

In terms of feeding lactating sows, the effect of high ambient temperatures has been well documented for years (Silva et al., 2021). The result can be dramatic in terms of the reduction of the litter weight as well as the sow’s subsequent reproduction performance and even its longevity. Milk production is undergoing a major impact as demonstrated by Dr Silva during his presentation.

reduction in milk production

Advanced Nutrition Strategies for Mitigating Heat Impact

Now, how can we reduce the impact of warming temperatures as they become increasingly unavoidable?

Dr. Silva mentioned three basic solutions:

  • Selection of more resistant genetics
  • Modification of buildings (ventilation, cooling system, etc.)
  • Nutritional strategies

His research predominantly centered on nutrition; his presentation focused mainly on the third solution.

Nutritionists are aware of the protein and energy requirements during gestation and lactation and know that they vary depending on the stage of production, the age of the animal, the number of suckling piglets, its body condition, but also depending on the conditions of production environment. As feed recipes become more precise, efficient distribution systems must be used to better understand and meet the needs of each individual. Precise consumption reports, both during gestation and during lactation, allow producers and stakeholders to adjust feeding strategies according to the behavior of sows; only the use of automated feeding systems produces the reports necessary for such analyses. So, Dr. Silva presented this emerging consumption report, quite surprising for people used to reading these reports.

kinetics of feeding behavior

The increase in the number of visits without food in the late afternoon is almost never seen. The explanation would be that the sows fed with that specific feed were in a hypoglycemic condition at the end of the day. The period of prolonged fasting brings an imbalance in the AA/Energy ratio which leads the sows to look for food at the end of the day. The problem was largely solved by adding fiber (eubiotics) to the ration.

The phenomenon is not limited only to gestation; it is also found in lactation. The use of fiber makes it possible to achieve higher glycemic levels during the hours following a meal. In periods of intense heat with the reduction of intake, the impact becomes very significant. Once again, knowledge of eating behavior proves to be a major asset in management during periods of heat stress. Several feeding curves exist in lactation; you just need to analyze them and adjust your strategies.

Solutions to Optimize Sow Lactation

At the end of his presentation, some possible solutions to improve lactation consumption were presented. These included starting the feeding schedule around midnight during very hot periods, adding flavors to the feed, using betaine as an additive, reducing the protein level, using enzymes, etc.

Individual precision feeding by feed blending is also one of the solutions available. Meeting the real needs of sows during heatwaves is proving to be a very promising tool according to Dr. Silva.

This presentation was well-received by the attendees at the BPS and drew a large audience. To learn about the effects of heat stress on sows, you can read one of Dr. Silva’s research papers here.

Analyzing Feeding Behavior Will Be Crucial

In conclusion, the reality of heat change is undeniable, and it’s imperative for pig producers to focus on precise analysis of feeding behavior to help attenuate the negative effects.

Utilizing a smart feeder like GESTAL is particularly advantageous in combating heat stress among sows. With its advanced monitoring capabilities, GESTAL can track feeding patterns that may be indicative of heat stress, such as decreased appetite or altered feeding times. By promptly identifying these signs, producers can implement targeted interventions, such as adjusting feed formulations or scheduling feedings during cooler times of the day, to mitigate the effects of heat stress and ensure optimal nutrition for their pigs. In this way, GESTAL serves as a valuable tool in maintaining pig health and welfare, even in challenging environmental conditions.

If you wish to optimize your farm’s operation by using a smart sow feeding system, contact our team of experts, they can guide you on how GESTAL can improve your performance.


With 30 years of experience in swine production, at Jyga Technologies, we know your reality. GESTAL products are sold worldwide, including Canada, the United States, Latin America, Europe and Asia.