5 Ways Pigs Stay Cool When It’s Hot


Pigs, like humans, are warm-blooded mammals and omnivores, but unlike humans, pigs don’t sweat as they do not have sweat glands. Having no sweat glands makes it harder for them to keep themselves cool during the heat of the day. It also means they have to rely on other methods to keep themselves cool in the summer heat; let’s take a look at what these methods are.

There are five primary methods pigs use to stay cool. These are wallowing in muddy puddles and allowing the water to evaporate off them, drinking plenty of water, increasing their respiration or panting, decreasing their food intake, and using shady well-ventilated areas to keep cool.

When it comes to summer heat, a vital factor is that a hot pig is unhappy. Heat stress can also have some serious adverse side effects: reduced procreation, stunted growth, and ultimately death. We now know the five primary methods pigs employ to mitigate these risks and keep themselves cool in the heat. Let’s take a more thorough look at these methods to help keep your pigs happy.

pigs-in-mud
Photo 80468625 © Pavla Zakova | Dreamstime.com

5 Ways That Pigs Keep Themselves Cool When It’s Hot

As pigs cannot sweat due to their lack of sweat glands, they must implement other methods to keep themselves cool in the heat. There are five main ways that pigs will do this. Let’s take a look at these.

Pigs Wallow In Puddles To Cool Down

Wallowing in puddles has three-fold effectiveness in keeping pigs cool in the heat.

Firstly, the bonus of lying in a puddle, preferably a muddy puddle, is that pigs can dissipate their heat through the coolness of the wallow underneath and around them. Secondly, the mud covers their body and protects them from the sun’s harsh rays, and acts as a kind of sunscreen for pigs.

Thirdly, and most importantly, is the evaporative cooling that the puddle provides. As the mud and the water or moisture from the muddy puddle dries, it acts as a cooling technique like drying sweat, drawing the heat from the pigs’ bodies and allowing them to cool themselves. 

To help your pigs stay cool in the heat, you can make sure they have enough places to wallow. If it hasn’t rained in a while, you might want to run a hose into your pigs’ pasture area, keeping the water flowing until it has made the pen nice and muddy. 

Some people prefer to have a more permanent watering system, and they set up sprinklers in their enclosures that work off timers, making sure the pen is always perfectly muddy.

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Pigs Drink More Water To Stay Cool

Like humans, pigs can become dehydrated in the hot weather, and to prevent this and keep themselves cool they will drink plenty of water throughout the day. 

Providing your pigs with enough cool drinking water is very important during the long hot summer days. You can employ a few safety methods to ensure that your pigs have adequate drinking water in the heat.

Firstly, make sure to provide them with double the water they might drink in cooler weather. Next, it’s always best to ensure that you have enough water facilities available for your pigs. The number of watering troughs should reflect the number of pigs you have. It’s also good to make sure that the watering trough is in a position where it will not get too dirty or knocked over.

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Pigs Start Panting To Cool Down

Increased respiration or panting can help a pig to cool down. The panting allows for increased airflow and the evaporation of water from the pigs’ lungs, releasing additional heat and cooling them down.

Pigs Eat Less When They’re Hot

During the heat of summer, pigs will eat less food to prevent their bodies from generating heat during the digestion process. While temperatures are above their preferred range, you can often notice that they will choose to eat in the cool early mornings or the evenings when the temperature drops.

There are two ways that you can help your pigs facilitate this change. The first is to make sure that you feed them at appropriate times, either early in the mornings or late in the evenings. In between feeding times, it’s always good practice to ensure that the food in their feeding troughs is not going sour or left to attract rodents or the like.

Another interesting fact that you could consider is that fibrous foods generate more heat during the digestion process. So opting to keep these foods to a minimum during this time will help your pigs reduce bodily heat. You can make sure that their meals are nutrient-dense so that they are still getting all the nutrients they need for optimal health.

Pigs Stay In Shady Ventilated Areas To Stay Cool

On a typically hot day, temperatures in shaded areas are often 10° cooler than in the direct sun. They drastically reduce the amount of radiant heat from the sun. Pigs will take advantage of this and refuge in the cooler shaded areas. Especially if these areas are well ventilated and have airflow through them.

When planning your pig enclosure, it is always good to keep this information in mind. Placing your pen in an area with natural shade, from trees or wooded areas, is the best option. But if this option is not available, making sure that you build an artificial shaded area is the second best as long as you ensure adequate airflow through the artificial shaded area.

If you’re raising pigs in a cooler climate it is important to keep them comfortable all year round. Check out my recent article on How To Keep Pigs Warm In The Winter

Signs That Your Pigs Are Heat Stressed

You can look out for several signs that will indicate that your pig is heat-stressed. These signs include:

  • Reduced growth rate
  • Reduced feeding efficiency
  • Reduced pregnancy rates
  • Increased panting
  • Additional water intake
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle tremors
  • In extreme cases, death

Making sure that your pigs can cool themselves down is an excellent way to reduce the risks of heat stress. If your pigs start to present with any of the above signs, you can mitigate the problem by employing the methods discussed above to help your pigs stay cool in the heat.

Conclusion

There are five primary ways that your pigs stay cool in the heat. These are using wallowing holes, preferably muddy ones, to dissipate heat through the coolness underneath and using the mud as a sunblock and sun protector. The wallowing also enables evaporative cooling enabling the pig to cool itself.

Pigs will also drink more water to cool themselves, and they will reduce their food intake during the hot hours, thus reducing heat production through digestion. They will choose to remain in shady areas, especially if it is a well-ventilated area, and they will increase their respiration to panting to help cool themselves down.

Dane McManis

Dane started learning about farming while volunteering on a farm. Now he and his wife raise chickens, pigs, and ducks on their small farm with their two little girls.

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