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Cooling pads and antioxidants to mitigate heat stress in sows

Read time: 3 min

The research was presented at Leman Conference.

Heat stress can significantly challenge sow productivity and reproductive performance in swine farming. Sows exposed to high temperatures experience a range of physiological changes aimed at dissipating excess heat, which can adversely affect their well-being and the growth of their piglets. To combat these issues, researchers at Purdue University and North Carolina AT&T University have analyzed how heat stress and antioxidant supplementation impact the feeding process of lactating sows.

The global animal agriculture industry loses 50 billion dollars annually due to heat stress. In fact, heat stress in sows leads to various metabolic and physiological changes. These changes include increased body core temperature, higher blood flow to the skin to dissipate radiant heat, elevated respiration rates to expel excess heat, and reduced feed intake to limit heat production. However, during the research, the scientists discovered that the Cooling Pads resulted in more significant decreases in respiration rates and narrower variances in rectal temperature. Sows equipped with cooling pads experienced daily reductions in respiration rates, skin temperature, and rectal temperature increases.

Cooling pads mitigate heat stress in sows.

Impact of the cooling pads to reduce physiological signs of heat stress in sows.

It’s noteworthy that the influence of Electronic Cooling Pads (ECP) on Respiration Rates (RR) was most pronounced during the mid-lactation phase, exhibiting a substantial reduction (21 bpm compared to 72 bpm). This contrasted with the impact observed during the prefarrowing period (27 bpm versus 59 bpm) and late lactation (22 bpm versus 58 bpm).

These changes happen because cooling pad systems can effectively dissipate excess heat from lactating sows. They utilize the principles of conduction, where heat is transferred from the sow (the heat source) to a sink (chilled water running through pipes) while the sow is resting.

‘in this trial and one short trial in June (with two days of natural hot weather), the heat-stressed sows spend less time eating overall and eat their evening meal later,’ explained Dr. Allan Schinckel from Purdue University and one of the scientists leading the research.

The study’s results demonstrate the effectiveness of electronic cooling pads (ECP) in reducing the adverse effects of heat stress on sows. Combined with dietary antioxidants like Moringa leaf powder, these innovations contribute to maintaining more comfortable and thermally regulated conditions for sows during late gestation and lactation. As the swine industry seeks sustainable and efficient ways to address heat stress, ECP and dietary interventions present a promising solution for improving sow productivity and reproductive performance.

Extensive testing and refinement of the cooling pad design have yielded impressive results. Previous research by Dr. Schinckel showed that sows with cooling pads spent less time in a posture aimed at dissipating body heat and more time on essential activities like feeding and nursing. After just 80 minutes of cooling, sows with active cooling exhibited lower respiration rates, heart rates, vaginal and rectal temperatures, and skin temperatures than those without active cooling. The heat removal rate achieved with these cooling pads was significantly higher than previous designs made of concrete and steel pipes that covered entire floor sections.

In the same research, the scientists from Purdue University and USDA-ARS Livestock Behavior Research Unit determined that sows with cooling pads experienced reduced heat stress, as evidenced by decreased respiration rates, rectal temperatures, and skin temperatures. The required water flow rate varied with the severity of the heat stress, with a lower flow rate being sufficient for mild conditions and a higher flow rate needed for moderate heat stress environments.