One of the problems of this seasonal disorder – or disorders as I described last month – is that they can often appear out of the blue especially in autumn and early winter. Judging by the number of callouts I get as the evenings shorten – in any latitude – they are mostly from producers who have not been particularly troubled in the past and have been caught out by several of the symptoms I described in the preceding issue.
So this piece is not really written for those who have had to battle against the problems which seasonal infertility has caused them, as they have learnt from experience how to anticipate things. The veterinarians have done much to advise those who have encountered the disorders year-on-year and the more wary breeders have benefited from both this guidance and their experience of what precautionarymeasures have been useful.
The critical knowledge gap
As I see it, the main difference between the experienced and the newcomer to the scourge is twofold, like this:
Assume that seasonal infertility will affect you – not might affect you – and don’t adopt the attitude of “we will deal with it if and when it comes”, as some do.
In my own country the typical dip in reproductive efficiency costs us between 4 to 6 euro cents per kg liveweight from every finished pig sold across the year – very expensive. It doesn’t affect the growing pig of course and the penalty comes from selling fewer slaughter animals for the same breeding costs.
Having assumed that seasonal infertility may well hit you, here are some anticipatory precautions available to you…
Some other hints
AI will help considerably but careful handling and correct storage is critical in summer conditions. The experts keep a max/min thermometer in the base of the storage cabinet to monitor the ideal 16-18˚C temperature level.
Most breeders now know about preventing condition loss after farrowing (e.g. both maintaining fleshing, not just fat cover alone nowadays) but are less adept at altering the diet in really hot weather. Reduce internal metabolic heat by using fat in place of carbohydrates and fibre and added amino acids as partial replacement for conventional protein sources. You must consult a nutritionist over these changes.
Again don’t think: “These changes (which I’m told will cost about 8% more) are surely not worthwhile?” I can assure you they are, especially if linked to feeding the bulk of the day’s feed in the morning/ cooler evening while a hot spell lasts.
Plenty of advice here and equipment to go with it, varying from sophisticated timer/ temperature-sensing co-ordination to the crudeness of a pinhole-pierced hosepipe placed over the voiding areas and water turned on and off manually – which is better than nothing.
Seasonal infertility can be annoying, frightening and expensive. With global warming likely, it is likely to get worse. But it can be less of a problem than it is if you adopt the advice above – not all of it in the textbooks I have on my shelves.