By Julio P. Yap Jr.

In a tropical country like the Philippines, where relative humidity ranges from 71 to 85 percent and the average year-round temperature is 26.6 degrees Celsius, animal health experts have warned that heat stress conditions pose serious challenges to animal raisers throughout the year and could have serious consequences on the country’s food security and safety.

Based on a study conducted by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) entitled “Climate Change in the Philippines,” the country’s climate situation will further deteriorate in the future.

The study also noted that there has been an 0.65 degrees Celsius increase in the annual average temperature.

The climate trend was analyzed using available data from 1951 to 2009, with the average for the period 1971 to 2000 as reference value. The analysis of trends of extreme daily temperatures indicates a significant increase in the number of hot days but a decrease in the number of cool nights.

It also showed that in the next 30 to 40 years, the entire country will get warmer – annual average temperatures in all areas are expected to rise by 0.9 degrees to 1.1 degrees Celsius in 2020 and by 1.8 degrees to 2.2 degrees Celsius in 2050.

Projections for extreme events in 2020 and 2050 show that the number of days with maximum temperatures exceeding 35 degrees Celsius will continue to become more frequent.

Because of these, Glen L. Ibañez, Technical Services Department head of Univet Nutrition and Animal Healthcare Co. Inc. (UNAHCO), said the prospect of prolonged high temperatures is a serious cause for concern among swine raisers not only in the Philippines but also around the world.

“Pigs subjected to high ambient temperature and humidity become heat stressed,” he said. In a recent article published in Animal Production Science, experts from the Iowa State University and Virginia Tech said heat stress in pigs has far-reaching consequences leading to significant economic losses.

The modern sow has an impressive capacity to produce a large number of piglets; thus, there is a need to meet its nutrient demands.

Citing the article, Ibañez said economic losses “will result from poor sow performance, reduced and inconsistent growth, decreased carcass quality, mortality, morbidity, and processing issues caused by less rigid fat – also known as flimsy fat.”

Ibañez added that pigs suffering from heat stress will also experience reduced intestinal integrity and barrier function, reduced feed intake, increased systemic endotoxemia and
inflammation problems, reduced daily gains and reduced lean tissue accretion, lower fertility rates, and behavioral changes.

“Heat stressed pigs will also take longer to [grow to market size], thus impacting the incomes of swine raisers and threatening the steady supply of quality meat to consumers.”

On the other hand, Dr. Ken Bryant, an animal nutrition expert from the Ohio, United States-based animal nutrition services company Akey, Inc., said his company has partnered with UNAHCO’s swine feeds business unit, Pigrolac, to design superior products to prevent heat stress with the Advanced Cooling System (ACS).

In particular, Bryant cited Pigrolac’s MamaPro Premium Developer, which is specially designed for sows during gestation period.

He said the ACS in MamaPro Developer prevents heat stress for sustained appetite, which results in better nourished piglets in the womb, while its bio-fertility enhancers help replenish essential minerals like selenium and chromium that sows normally lose during pregnancy. It also has key vitamins and trace minerals to support the capacity of modern sows to produce large litter sizes and reduce cases of stillbirths.

“The modern sow has an impressive capacity to produce a large number of piglets. Because of this, the gestating sow has nutrient demands that need to be satisfied,” he explained. “Critical nutrients like minerals, vitamins, amino acids, carbohydrates, fatty acids and water need to be
supplied to replenish what are being used up. Sows that do not get enough nutrients to counter the nutrient drain will have a short reproductive life, will produce lesser piglets and give birth to piglets that weigh less.”

Glen L. Ibañez (right), technical services department head of Univet Nutrition and Animal Healthcare, Co. Inc. (UNAHCO), together with UNAHCO president and COO Richard Alba, warns that the prospect of prolonged high temperatures is a serious cause for concern among swine raisers, not only in the Philippines but around the world.

Once sows have given birth, Bryant said they must be givenMamaPro Premium Milkmaker, which also has ACS as well as bio-milk enhancers to improve not just the quantity but also the quality of the sow’s milk. “The Bio-Milk Enhancers in MamaPro Milkmaker help increase immunoglobin levels in colostrum which strengthens the piglets’ immunity from diseases. It is really geared towards improving the quantity and quality of both the sow’s colostrum and milk,” he said.

“The ACS on the other hand alleviates the effects of heat stress and supports the high feed intake needed by sows for lactation. We must remember that sows have high metabolic heat from higher food intake, which in turn is needed so they can produce more milk. Prior to weaning, piglets are extremely dependent on the sow’s milk for growth and survival. Thus, poor milk quantity and quality will likely result [in] higher preweaning mortality and lower weaning weight that will ultimately impact the farmer’s income,” he pointed out.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s June 2016 issue.